Pitino Rumors Rattle Through Big East
Pitino talked to Providence officials, with Louisville's knowledge, at the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio. Pitino has strong ties to Providence. In 1987, Pitino coached Providence to the Final Four, the same year his six-month old son, Daniel, died and was buried in Providence.
The discussions between Pitino and Providence lasted "maybe 24 hours" in San Antonio, Louisville associate athletic director Kenny Klein told FanHouse.
"He has a personal connection with Providence because of his history there, so he legitimately considered it," Klein said. "He has no other interest in any other job than Louisville now."
However, the New York Daily News reported Pitino was interested in the Nets job.
"I can't keep talking about rumors and untruths," Pitino said on Thursday's Big East Conference call. "In the past nine years, I've never had a conversation with a professional team. I had one conversation with a college team [Providence]."
Pitino was asked specifically to address the story that indicated Pitino was "getting worn down" from the extortion case that revealed a sexual affair and competing against Kentucky coach John Calipari in the Bluegrass State.
"So what do you do when you're tired and worn out?" Pitino said. "You don't go to the Caribbean, you don't go to the Bahamas, you take the New Jersey Nets' job where they've won four games.
"Just think of the rationale behind the whole thing. If you're going to get rejuvenated you don't take over the Nets."
Pitino's Cardinal, battling to make the NCAA Tournament, were in New York Thursday to play St. John's.
"There's absolutely no truth to [the Daily News story]," Pitino said. "I shouldn't address it because there's no truth to it. [Nets president] Rod Thorn is a longtime friend of mine. The only conversations we've ever had together is how many strokes he's going to give me [on the golf course] in the summer time. It's never about coaching."
One Big East game equals seven dog years?
Marquette coach Buzz Williams is only 37 years old. But now in his second season as the Golden Eagles' coach, he's beginning to feel a lot older.
Marquette's first four games in Big East play were decided by a total of eight points. Of the Golden Eagles' 11 conference games, eight have been decided by five points or less.
The Golden Eagles (15-8, 6-5 Big East) are smack dab in the middle of the league standings, one of several teams battling to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
"I don't think we're fighting for a berth, we're fighting to hold on," Williams said. "A month [in the league] is similar to dog years. It's a long, long time. [An NCAA Tournament berth] is not even brought up. You can lose the rest of your games and you'll be home real quick after [the league tournament in] New York.
"We're just trying to figure out how to hold on against South Florida [Saturday]. I couldn't tell you what's going on with the rest of teams in the league. It's fairytale talk and we want to live in reality."
A Bullish guarantee
South Florida's recent school record four-game Big East winning streak was halted at Notre Dame Sunday, but star junior guard Dominique Jones guaranteed another four-game winning streak on his Facebook page.
"To all the USF fans who continue to ask and comment about the [Notre Dame] game – we played in 1 of the hardest places to win – I didn't play well but I'm good for a bad game every 10 – but now we are in full effect – and I guarantee 4 more Big East wins in a row – copyright this quote."
Jones, who has carried the Bulls during their recent surge, was held to 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting in the Notre Dame loss. On Saturday, USF (15-8, 5-6) visits Marquette and the Bulls are expected to get forward Gus Gilchrist back from an ankle injury.
With seven league games remaining -- and the fourth game in the stretch at Villanova -- any four-game winning streak would mean USF would have to defeat the Wildcats on the road on Feb. 24. If Jones' guarantee comes true, then the Bulls would be a virtual lock to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1992.
Getting to March Madness is murder
Three-fourths of the Big East's 16 teams still have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA Tournament, but Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin is realistic that all of the league's deserving teams won't get NCAA bids.
"As long as there are 16 teams in the Big East, what it does is takes [NCAA] tournament teams and puts them on the bubble," Cronin said. "There are 11 teams that have played well enough out of conference, but the reality is were not all going to make it [in the NCAAs].
"We have to battle each other and it's a matter of killing each other off and who survives."
Friday, the rematch of the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh will be held in Pittsburgh. The first contest on Feb. 3 in West Virginia was interrupted when West Virginia fans threw debris on the floor and Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion was hit with a quarter thrown from the stands. WVU coach Bob Huggins said he has no safety concerns for his team when it visits Pittsburgh. ... Saturday, Cincinnati (14-9, 5-6 Big East) visits UConn (14-10, 4-7) in a game both teams need to improve their NCAA hopes. "Both teams are desperate for a win," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. Thursday morning Cronin added that having the Huskies without coach Jim Calhoun "is a weird feeling playing UConn and looking down and Jim Calhoun is not standing there." Ironically, UConn announced Thursday that Calhoun had returned from his medical leave and his first game back will be against the Bearcats.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org