Like Lazarus before them, U of L’s improbable, unforeseeable resurrection continued last Saturday night. Nothing helps the faithful sleep better than dreams of smarmy Tom Crean, the smirk wiped off his face, stewing in his own bile.
Card fans leapt joyously from their barcoloungers when Jerry Smith powerchorded string music, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A dance card for the Cards within grasp, the chilly winter’s night warmed.
Unfortunately The Rick took the euphoric moment to display his rabbit ears, berating fans for their egregious disloyalty.
No matter that the coach is treated like a carton of fresh eggs by fans and media compared to the cacophony that precipitated his departure from Boston. No matter that those fans pay thousands of dollars a year to pay him millions. Coach just didn’t seem to like that earlier this season they took the team and him to task for their underwhelming and less than stellar performance.
One can only hope he’ll have those rabbit ears removed. Perhaps a skin thickening salve would help too.
Reality is there was nothing on display three weeks ago that would have given an observer reason to predict last week’s success. Seasoned experts, the media, fans, even Pitino himself publicly, scratched their heads, wondering what ailed the underperforming Cardinals. There were injuries. There was a lack of focus and leadership. Shooting was skewed. Only stalwart defense, essentially a zone, held the Cardinals together.
Road wins over Pitt and Marquette stunned the nation’s hoops junkies as much as the acolytes. After the wins, U of L jumped to # 20 in the AP Poll after receiving nary a vote the week before.
Adding to the confusion have been continuing mixed messages from The Rick. So and so is hurt and won’t be ready for two months. He starts the next game. This guy will contribute for four years. Next week he’s on a bus back home. Another guy’s in the doghouse. The key is lost. Next game he leads the team in scoring.
Which is to say fans might have more perspective if they got facts not spin from their coach.
Many of these loyalists remember Harold Andrews shot that beat arch-rival Dayton in mid fifties, and Marv Selvy’s game-winner from the half-court stripe in the 60’s. They still envision Ron Rubenstein’s bomb from the deep corner tickle the twines against Eastern Kentucky. (And remember that ref Max Macon stopped the clock, allowing the Cards to get the play off.)
They experienced the sadness in San Diego in ‘75 when Louisville should have beaten UCLA in the NCAA semis but couldn’t close. They watched the team self destruct in the ‘79 tourney. They remember the joy of ousting UK and Michigan State in the ‘59 Mideast Regionals, only to be battered by Cincy and West Virginia the following weekend in the Final Four. At Freedom Hall no less.
Which is to underscore that the faithful were here long before The Rick and will be fans after he retires.
Dissatisfaction must not be confused with disloyalty. Just because fans become dissolusioned with their beloved team doesn’t make them nabobs of negativitude. They love the team no less in hard times than good.
Coach, you’re doin’ a helluva job. Keep it up. Stay the course.
Fans want success even if they don’t kiss your ring. The season’s fun all of a sudden.
Enjoy. The loyalists are.