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January 9, 2007

Rumor & Innuendo: Cardinal winter of discontent.

No rumor this week. No innuendo. Just one diehard’s opinion on the sad condition of his beloved U of L Cardinal hoopsters. It is a dumbfounding state of affairs. This team is not without talent. Rick Pitino hasn’t suddenly lost his abundant coaching faculties. Young teams in such a desultory state at the beginning of conference play have made runs to the NCAA. Kansas did last season. Yet so soon after a Final Four appearance, it’s hard to be optimistic about this campaign or the program. The incredible number of injuries over the last several seasons and the absurd number of transfers have to be more than coincidence. One must ask if the players are being worked too hard? Why have so many seemingly talented players voluntarily left or been run off when they didn’t meet immediate expectations? If the latter, why were they recruited in the first place? This squad appears rudderless, playing with one eye to the bench, playing without joy, playing without cohesion, playing without leadership, playing in a system that, for the moment, seems ill-suited for its present abilities. It is said that Rick Pitino is suffering from back problems. The nature and extent of that are unknown. Perhaps this is a reasonable explanation for those moments when he seems less focused than in the past. Perhaps this is a reasonable explanation for his unrelenting criticism of players during a game, with little apparent counterbalancing of encouragement. Perhaps not. One has to ask if the coach might be well served by having an old head on his staff to whom he might listen? Jim Calhoun has George Blaney. Billy Donovan has Larry Shyatt. (Who, by the by, tried to be hired at U of L when Reggie Theus came on board.) Right now this team is not nip and tuck to make the Big East tournament, NCAA or NIT. It is nip and tuck to have a winning record. U of L is off the college basketball radar. Cardinal fans who have supported the program for decades — with heart and money — deserve better. By seedy k seedyk@culturemaven.com