March 25, 2008

Ballz (Sports by cd kaplan): Give Rick a chance

Some Louisville Cardinal fans won’t give it up.Rick Pitino was once Big Blue. And once a Cat always a Cat is a mantra for many.So, in some red and black households, the U of L’s coach remains unloved, his coaching prowess in question. Especially when he’s compared with his beloved predecessor Denny Crum. The Rick’s bench art — or lack thereof, according to this segment of Cardinaldom — remains a sore point. When I challenged a fellow fan who holds that strident opinion before the Cards’ opening tourney tilt, he responded, “Please sit next to the court tonight and help Coach Genius with the final three minutes. Simply increasing the fouling and calling more and more timeouts is not a good tactic. Especially when you run out.”That purported hole in the coach’s resume hasn’t been a problem yet in this year’s tournament.Louisville jumped on Boise State 10-1. Midway through the opening half, the margin was cut to three. Within 90 seconds, the steely Cards were up 11. The potato-staters never got closer than 10, trailed by 13 at the half and were fried, dipped in ketchup and served up with a burger by 18 at the buzzer.Guess that coach without game had his guys ready and didn’t need help at crunch time.On Sunday against the Okies, the Cards fell behind 7-9 because of three David Godbold treys. Then the coach who can’t coach must have said something beneficial during the TV timeout that followed: That particular Sooner was only able to launch three more shots in the half, missing all.Godbold did net one more from Treyville. It cut Louisville’s lead to 20 with 18:03 to play. The U of L sweated out a 78-48 victory.Guess that coach without game had his guys ready and didn’t need help at crunch time.The truth: Louisville still hasn’t won a close one this season. Whether that will hurt against Bruce Pearl’s loosey goosey Tennessee Vols will play out Thursday night.I’ll give those naysaying Cardinal fans this: Pitino isn’t the bench coach that Denny Crum was. Then again, nobody was. Cool Hand Luke was the master. Period.But it’s time to move on. Rick Pitino’s skills are manifest. He adds value at tournament time. More than any coach anywhere today. The stats don’t lie: His teams are the best at exceeding seeding expectations.During the season, U of L shot 46 percent from the field, 35 percent from behind the arc. Coming into the NCAAs off two consecutive losses, the squad hit 29-52 against Boise, 32-54 against Oklahoma. They connected on half their treys in both tilts.Call it what you will. I say coaching has a lot to do with it.In the opener, Terrence Williams hit the first seven points, then morphed into Evil T-Will. He jacked up off-balance shots outside the offensive scheme, refused to drive it all the way to the basket and generally did his best to sabotage the game plan. Two days later, Williams only showed up as Evil T-Will one trip down the court. Call it what you will. I say coaching has a lot to do with it. Rick Pitino has four days to prepare the U of L for Tennessee. You tell me another active coach you’d rather have doing it.  Contact the writer at seedyk@culturemaven.com HIGH and INSIDE:MORE RUMBLINGS FROM THE WORLD OF SPORTSFave Quote of Weekend. Joe Alexander’s West Virginia Mountaineers had just proven once again that Duke is a Wizard of Oz, its overrated hoopsters more nimbus than sunshine. According to The New York Times, in the locker room after the game, Alexander was told that eight Dookies were McD’s All-Americans. To which he asked seriously, “Who?”Here’s some news that didn’t fit. In that same issue of newspaperdom’s perennial No. 1, there was this less-than-prescient observation before the Cards battled the Sooners: “No. 3 Louisville needs to run against a slow Oklahoma team, seeded No. 6. If not, the Cardinals will be manhandled inside.” Oh, Stephen Danley, how you carry on. At one point in the second half, the points-in-the-paint stats read: Louisville 40, Oklahoma 8.Fave Quote, Part Deux. Again from the Times: West Virginia backup Cam Thoroughman asked if Greg Paulus was one of those Golden Arches A-As? When told yes, he responded, “Oh my God. Are you kidding me?”seedyk@culturemaven.com