Louisville Cardinal Hoops: One Last Look Back at ’14-’15

joaniecardIf you have been fortunate enough to visit Barcelona, one of the world’s great cities, you surely are aware of Sagrada Familia.

It is a church of grandiose character and proportion, designed by my favorite architect, the ever unique, Art Nouveau master Antoni Gaudi.

Construction commenced in 1882.

I was fascinated from the first moment I ever saw a photo of the place, sometime back in the 70s, I suppose. It looked, with all its towering swirls and whirls, as if constructed of filigreed chocolate mousse.

So, when I had the good fortune to visit that world class burg in Catalonia about a decade ago, Sagrada Familia was my go to spot to visit.

I was stunned to find the edifice, surrounded by cranes, great portions of it, wrapped in construction netting to prevent falling objects. And realized it’s never been finished.

In fact, only one facade was completed at the time of Gaudi’s death. It is that beauteous concoction I fell in love with. But the powers that be decided to complete the task, yet funding has come fitfully only from private donations. And other architects have been involved, such that the newer portions bear only peripheral resemblance to Gaudi’s iconic original.

So, Sagrada Familia to this day remains a marvel of a building, an object of considerable fascination and controversy . . . and, almost a century and a half later . . . still under construction.

* * * * *

Which reminds me of my beloved University of Louisville Cardinals during the Rick Pitino era.

Note: I am not here to denigrate the Hall of Fame coach of the Cardinals. Yesterday, in this space, I took him to task for an aspect of his character I personally find disagreeable. Which was not meant then, nor is it now, to mean I’m not grateful that he is U of L’s coach, that I recognize he’s one of the best in the biz. All of us, even those we love, including ourselves, have quirks of personality we wish were otherwise. It does not diminish the totality of our admiration and affection.

But, it does seem to me, despite all the success of the last decade, the title, the Final Four runs, there is an unsettled nature to the program.

Not complaining. Just sayin’. I love the team and the status as a major player that Pitino has maintained.

Like Sagrada Familia, U of L hoops remains beauteous, despite its unsettled nature.

Next year’s squad is truly going to be a gang of Diaper Dandies.

But, today, one last look back.

* * * * *

The players won’t say it.

The Rick won’t admit it.

But most of us acknowledge the truth.

U of L was a better team, after Quentin Snider became the starting point guard.

Despite the loss of Chris Jones’s ball hawking and rock stealing abilities, Louisville maintained its lofty position as the 5th best defensive team in the land.

With the ball, there was more movement, more flow, less stagnation.1 It is when Wayne Blackshear found another gear, missing during his first 3 1/2 seasons. When Terry Rozier went on a tear (which was followed a short slump, then another tear). When there seemed to be more coherence of purpose.

Much credit for this metamorphosis goes to Pitino and his staff, who were forced, because of the personnel change, to recalibrate and retune.

Much credit goes to this band of Cardinals, who stayed the course. And came up big at surprising moments. Q, a 55% FT shooter, drained two major ones to secure advancement in the tourney. Mango, a 39% shooter from the field, netted that jumper to beat Virginia, in the season’s defining game.

Terry Rozier, having a less than stellar shooting game against Sparty, stole the ball thrice in the backcourt for important scores. Trez played beastly ball, until the long season finally took its toll Sunday.

The now departed Anton Gill, surely having made the decision by then to move on, came up huge to save the day against the Wolfpack.

Dillon Avare, an afterthought of a walk on, drained a big FT against Michigan State, when called upon with Wayne’s nose, flowing blood on the bench.

Etc, etc.

* * * * *

This imperfect band of Cardinals won 27 games against one of the twenty toughest schedules in the country, made it to the Elite Eight . . .

. . . despite making only 43% of the shots it took.

. . . despite making only 31% of its treys.

. . . despite hitting only 67% of its charity tosses.

. . . despite getting assists on well less than half of its made baskets (419 of 878).

. . . despite an assist/ turnover ration of only 1.5.

. . . despite a slim rebounding margin of +2.6.

. . . despite having among the worst scoring %s from the pivot of any DI school.

. . . despite the off court turmoil.

. . . despite its youth.

This team, as shaky as things got at times, despite extended lapses of offensive production; this team, the players, the coaching staff, never quit.

There is no higher compliment I can offer.

— Seedy K

8 thoughts on “Louisville Cardinal Hoops: One Last Look Back at ’14-’15

  1. Ok….today you nailed it.

    That is the essence of Pitino ball. Never quit. The players that left…they all quit. Rick never quits.

  2. Gaudi’s work was and remains organic and even Sagrada Familia rather than being stagnant is in an organic evolution, slow that it might be. Our coach may also be similarly organic and evolving. As pointed out by you previously, tolerating Francisco messing with his tie, let alone Russ “demanding” a hug and Pitino’s post-traumatic recognition of his own sagrada familia can be maybe be paralleled by an evolution in whom he brings to the program as asst coaches and players.
    He will likely always have that NY edge, and always be a Hubie disciple with frank criticism but he “won’t quit” or “settle”; just not in his nature to be satisfied with not being on top

  3. Lovely writing, Seedy. Gaudi was a genius and a madman for details! Although the joyous Sagrada Familia feels playful and “loose”, he often had his craftsmen tear out their fine work and do it again, the right way— his way. Perhaps not unlike Pitino after all.

  4. I agree with you about the fight in the team and the coach. But as to your conclusion that “we all have our quirks…”

  5. Don’t know where Rick was tonight, but I know where he wasn’t – that would be in the Windy city watching his McDonald All-American recruits. I noted that seven of the Micky D’s have not chosen a school, but I also noted that none of these seven listed the Cardinals as a possibility. But all was ot lost. I did enjoy watching the women’s game with our three Micky D’s !

  6. Birdie King, I try, really really try, to watch those all-star games. But just can’t do it. So sloppy. And, as best I know, U of L is, as we say, not “in” with any of the unsigned McD one and doners.

  7. True, but we are “in” on several 5th year Seniors from other programs and hoping to get a high school JUNIOR upgraded to a Senior so he can get here a year early. Really? It’s a bit disconcerting that it has come to this for a program at our level and with our history.

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