Rick Pitino Credits Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock and Gorgui Dieng as the Reasons Why the Cardinals Won the National Championship
April 10, 2013 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce
Rick Pitino is a lucky man this week. He was elected to the Hall of Fame, his horse is headed to the Kentucky Derby, his son got a prominent head-coaching job in Minnesota and Pitino is also a national champion once again.
The Louisville Cardinals rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat Michigan 82-76 in the NCAA championship on Monday. This team overcame the gruesome Kevin Ware injury and Pitino is proud of his squad.
Rick Pitino joined ESPN Radio with Mike and Mike In The Morning to discuss winning the national championship with two different teams during his career, his message to the team after Spike Albrecht put the Cardinals down by as many as 12 points, the Cardinals becoming great in the postseason because of three playmakers and the affect of Kevin Ware’s injury to the Cardinals team this weekend.
How different is the feeling winning the national championship with this Louisville team as compared to the team you won with in 1996?
“They were two great teams for different reasons. I thinking winning 16 games in a row off a five-overtime loss to Notre Dame and sharing in the Big East title late in the season, winning the last Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden and then going on and being the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds and withstanding the pressure of that and winning a National Championship. I’m just so proud of the guys. It was a great group of guys to coach. It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of laughs together and now they are national champions.”
What was the message when Spike Albrecht put your team down 12 points?
“Russ Smith was looking forward to playing against Trey Burke and I told him, ‘Russ, don’t make this an individual thing.’ Then after this young man, Spike Albrecht, has 17 points at halftime I said, ‘Russ forget about Trey Burke. You see that little kid that nobody knows about? He just scored 17 on you, so please try to make it like you are playing some defense.’ And he laughed because he and Peyton Siva were involved. We knew he could shoot, but we didn’t expect him to take us off the bounce like he did. He just had a spectacular half as well as their team shoots the basketball 10feet beyond the 3-point line. You not only think it’s going in, but it looks great when they release it.”
What’s the reason for why your team won the national championship?
“When we started playing Luke Hancock more minutes we became a great half-court team executing on offense. We were always a pressing team, a good transition team, but during the regular season I thought we were average at best in our half-court offense. We became great in the postseason because we had three playmakers: Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock and Gorgui Dieng. All were great playmakers and I think that was a major reason for why we won a championship.”
How did the Kevin Ware injury affect your team this weekend?
“It didn’t affect us this weekend. I don’t think myself, staff and players could have gathered our emotions and focused in on beating Duke if it wasn’t for Kevin Ware’s courageous behavior. Now that I know Kevin is going to be fine, the one thing that sticks out so much to me and I’ll remember for the rest of my life is the way our team spontaneously showed incredible love and emotion for that young man’s injury, and then with his bone hanging out of his skin he says, ‘Coach, just win the game. I am going to be fine.’ He says it three times. I gather everybody. They are nauseous. They are crying. I said, ‘Kevin wants to say something to you.’ He says, ‘Guys I’m going to be fine. Win this game.’ Then he left and I got the guys together and said we all know where Kevin Ware is from, he’s from Atlanta. Let’s get him home. Focus in and let’s get him home. When you’re playing against a Coach K-coached team — and he is probably the best coach we have at any level — you have to have that focus to beat Duke because they are such a well coached team.”
Listen to Rick Pitino on ESPN Radio here
Tags: College Basketball, Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Ware, Kevin Ware injury, Louisville Cardinals, Louisville Cardinals 2013 NCAA Champions, Luke Hancock, Peyton Siva, Rick Pitino
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