Alma Mater (Year):
|219-50 (81.4%), 8 years
352-124 (73.9%) 15 years
New York, NY
Sept. 18, 1952
Promising to win right away, the 36-year-old coach from the New York Knicks rook the challenge of rebuilding the UK basketball dynasty and never quit until the job was complete eight years later.
Pitino came to UK with impressive credentials, having rebuilt Boston College, Providence and the Knicks before traveling to the Bluegrass. His first UK ream, “Pitino’s Bombinos”, shocked the college basketball world by defeating Shaquille ONeal, Chris Jackson and the No. 9-ranked LSU Tigers in Lexington en route to a 14-14 record on 1989-90.
It was a glimpse into the future. The following year, UK finished with the best record in the SEC. Then in 1992, fresh off NCAA probation, the “Unforgettables” rook eventual national champion Duke into overtime of the East Regional final before falling 104-103 in what many have labeled the “greatest college basketball game ever played.”
In 1993, with Jamal Mashburn leading the charge, UK advanced to the Final Four for the first rime in nine years, losing to Michigan in overtimc. The next year, the Cars recorded the biggest road comeback in NCAA history -31 points with 15:34 remaining-to defeat LSU, 99-95. After an Elite Eight finish in ‘95, Pitino’s squad became the team to beat in ‘96. Highlights included the school’s first league championship in 10 seasons, a 27-game win streak, a top-three ranking nearly the entire season, and the crowning jewel, the school’s sixth NCAA title.
After a trip to the White House for a celebration with the President, UK lost four players to the NBA Draft. Pitino’s task of defending the national championship became more difficult after star-guard Derek Anderson severely injured his knee during the season. But his Cats wouldn’t fold, rolling to the title game before losing t Arizona in overtime.
Along the way, Pitino won on five of six SEC Tournament Championships two ECAC Holiday Classics, the Maui Invitational and the Great Alaska Shootout. He had a 104-28 record vs. SEC teams, winning two league crowns and an amazing 17-I record in the SEC tourney.
He coached three All-Americans and eight All-SEC performers. The NBA drafted eight of his Wildcats, six in the first round, including three lottery picks.
Following the national runner-up trophy in 1997, the former point guard at UMass left UK for the challenge of rebuilding the Boston Celtics of the NBA.