Rick Pitino Presser, Part Deux

cardsHere are some more nuggetoids of info from Rick Pitino’s meetup with the media yesterday.

My initial report, much of it dealing with the coach’s indictment of the influence of shoe companies in college hoops, can be found here.

Reading that posting first is not necessary for a full appreciation of what’s to follow. Though, one guy’s opinion, mine, you should desire to savor every word of both.

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After a couple of exhibitions — Let’s call them “B Games” since the foes will be Bellarmine and Barry — the Cards open the regular season in the Caribbean against Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers are coached, as we know, by Pitino the Younger, Richard.

Pitino the Elder advised yesterday that father and son played 5 rounds of golf this summer. “Very competitive” were his words to describe each round. The Pitino who coaches in the Big Ten won all five encounters.

The Pitino who coaches in the ACC indicated his son believes his school, with four starters returning from an NIT championship team, is more than capable of upending pop’s squad.

“It’s not like playing Florida International.

“I didn’t want to play Minnesota. My son thinks he can beat us. He expects to win.”

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Pitino shared one of the reasons he likes to coach foreign big men.


“They grew up playing soccer. Gorgui played soccer. Mango played soccer.”

Asked about Matz Stockman, the new big un on the team from Norway, Pitino laughed. Admitted he didn’t think he’d played soccer. Conjecture included speed skating and cross country skiing.

Pitino did advise that Stockman’s teammates, when annoyed, had taken to cursing in Norwegian.1

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In recent years, Pitino has used the phrase, “building the brand,” when discussing what he’d been trying to do during his stint at U of L.

This year’s catch phrase, which he used several times during the press conference, is “culture of winning.”

He confirmed that his starters, the veterans on the team, understand it. The newcomers, he advised, are just learning how it works.

One indelible observation I had during the session was Pitino’s reluctance to discuss the newcomers. He mentioned Nanu’s getting in shape,2 how Quentin Snider had lowered his body fat from 13% to 7% and can’t play a lick of defense, how Jaylen Johnson hadn’t practice a day since arriving in Louisville until the past week, how thin and weak Shaqquan Aaron is, and how he doesn’t really expect 7 footers Stockman or Egyptian Anas Mahmoud to contribute this year.

Other than that, whenever asked about the freshmen, Pitino parried the conversation in another direction.

He admitted the need to discover who on the bench will be able to contribute?

“Our bench is a question mark.”

It seemed fairly obvious, to me at least, that this is an issue of serious concern for the coach. At least, at this juncture, early in full squad preseason practice.

* * * * *

Akoy Agau, essentially a non contributor his first season, of whom Pitino had serious praise this summer, has, like Johnson, just returned to practice after recovering from injury.

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When asked how the team will fare without the sensational but enigmatic Russ Smith, now in the NBA, Pitino joked, “We’ll know what we’re doing on offense.”

While the coach is obviously very fond of Smith, and appreciates his incredible contributions to the Cardinals’ recent successes, I got the impression Pitino is looking forward to more certainty on the court, and feels his current backcourt contingent is more than up to the task of filling the void.

* * * * *

Pitino acknowledged that FT shooting has been an area of concern.

He said they’ve been working with Montrezl to develop “soft hands,” when launching his charity tosses.

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“There are always one or two games in the tournament, when defense needs to win the game.”

Pitino said he’d just started installing his defenses, indicating he didn’t know which would be used the most?

He mentioned three different presses, a match up zone, among other possibilities.

* * * * *

When asked about being heralded as the second pick, behind Duke, to win the ACC, Pitino demurred.

“I look at the teams that are experienced. Carolina is experienced. Virginia has four starters coming back.”

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Louisville will play two intersquad scrimmages at the Yum!, on October 19, and 26. Tip off for both games is 2:00 pm.

— Seedy K