On Monday night, the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball team beat the University of Michigan 82-76 to win the national championship. The victory capped off a magical, dream week for Cards Head Coach Rick Pitino: He found out he will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this fall; his son, Richard Pitino, landed the head coaching job at Minnesota; and Goldencents, a horse he part owns, won the Santa Anita Derby. Plus, thanks to UofL’s win, he became the first coach in NCAA history to lead two schools to a national championship. Luke Hancock was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after scoring 22 points, including hitting all five of the three-pointers he attempted. Kevin Ware got to cut down the net, but only after the basket was lowered. And the Cards finished up 35-5, a school record for wins.
After the game, Coach Pitino gathered much of his extended family and pulled them together in a huddle on the court at the Georgia Dome before joining the raucous celebration.
KENT TAYLOR: You’ve experienced (a national championship) before, but it’s been awhile, what are the emotions now?
JOANNE PITINO: It’s just surreal, I am just so happy for all the kids that lost their dads, and Rick took them in and he had the capacity to nurture and love them so much. I wanted them to see something happy. The last 12 years have kept him going and brought him such happiness. Ever since we lost everybody, these kids have lived for these games and it’s brought them happiness.
TAYLOR: What was the moment like on the court when (Rick) huddled up the family?
JOANNE: Special, special.
TAYLOR: How much would Billy Minardi love this?
JOANNE: He’s here, he’s here.
TAYLOR: What was that moment on the court like for you?
RICK PITINO: I wanted my sister-in-law to really feel something special because I was thinking about her all afternoon – the rough breaks she’s had in her life – so I said, “Listen, this is the most special thing that has ever happened to me and I want you to have it.” So I gave her the jersey that the Hall of Fame presented me on Monday morning.
TAYLOR: Joanne said that Billy was here. Did you sense that?
RICK: He was, and he’ll be with us tonight too.
RICHARD PITINO: It was a great moment. We’ve had some tough times, with my aunts, losing some people like everybody has, and to be able to share that type of moment on this stage is really special.
TAYLOR:What goes through your mind when I say that you are the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four?
TAYLOR: Your dad and mom were in the stands for the last two games and you absolutely lit it up. Does that mean the most, that they were there?
HANCOCK: That means so much. You know I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on my dad to be here, I didn’t tell anybody, or put it out there, but it’s so great that he’s here. He seemed comfortable and happy.
TAYLOR: It’s a short list of Louisville athletes: Darrell Griffith, Pervis Ellison and now Luke Hancock. Does that sound about right?
HANCOCK: You’ve got that list messed up, but I’m just so happy for everybody in this locker room.
[Editor’s Note: Griffith, Ellison and now Hancock are the only Louisville players to have been named Most Outstanding Players in a national championship game.]
TAYLOR: What did it mean to you to cut down that net?
KEVIN WARE: Everything. It was a shocker because I didn’t know it was going to happen. When they came over and told me, I was kind of nervous, but it was definitely worth it.