By John Ramsey
Special to WAVE3.com
LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (WAVE) - The Holiday Inn in Liverpool, N.Y., is not a pretty picture. Sure, my team is in the Sweet 16. I'm covering the UofL game against North Carolina State and the excitement level for what may happen is through the roof.
However, it's hard to paint this hotel pretty when the last time it has been painted or updated in any way was around the time Darrell Griffith was leading the Cards to their first national title in 1980. If there was ever a lobby in need of an interior designer, it was the one where my microphone was parked for 93.9 The Ville on Thursday.
Then, suddenly, he appeared in the room with instant swagger. UofL coach Rick Pitino had invaded my space and it suddenly became stylishly accessorized. Designer scarf, Italian sports coat and a perfectly placed pocket square. Hard to believe but that "I Love The 70's" lobby now looked like the red carpet at The Barnstable Brown Derby Eve Gala.
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I have been fortunate to have interviewed Pitino at corporate events as well as luncheons and pep rallies. This one, however, was unrehearsed and totally impromptu. I prefer spontaneity but Pitino is the master. Rather than ask about the X's and O's, I always try to find find out what fuels the fire. This conversation with Pitino was by far the most casual, as well as the most candid, I've ever had with him.
He confessed he actually like Christian Laettner. He said his mind still races to the point that he can't sleep on nights before big games. He said he took pride in watching his son, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, speak to the Cards recently, but added that he had to correct him about one thing afterward.
The younger Pitino told the UofL players last week that his dad already has his championships and his Final Four appearances and his money and fame. He doesn't need any more, so it's up to the players to earn their own success.
Rick Pitino congratulated his son on a nice speech, but told them that since he's much closer to the end of his coaching career than he is to the beginning of it, he still needs this.
Along the way, Pitino said, he's discovered the importance of enjoying the journey. His knowledge and passion for basketball have always been obvious. In a year of drama, it was nice to hear that the man with swagger and Hall of Fame credentials has embraced the process and extracted the positive.
Pitino has been to the top of the mountain, but it was great to hear he now enjoys the view during the climb.