Cats Host Commodores Saturday

On Saturday, the University of Kentucky Wildcats will get another opportunity to win their first game in the SEC.  The Vanderbilt Commodores will come to town with a 4-4 record against the 1-8 Cats.  Much of the discussion surrounding UK football over the past weeks is about the future of Head Coach Joker Phillips and whether or not the Kentucky Alumnus would be retained. It’s a tough position for an athletic director to be in to have a good person, a UK grad, and someone who has meant an awful lot to the school to be looking at a decision like this one.  Kentucky has played an impossible schedule and has had an implausible amount of injuries, but that’s football in the SEC. Joker Phillips has been in the program for several years now, so the depth issues, the personnel issues, and ultimately losing games he’s responsible for.  Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart’s job is to build an all-encompassing athletic department which is almost entirely funded through Men’s Basketball & Football.  With Football interest possibly at a 20-year low as evidenced by attendance, tickets sold, and general discussion Mr. Barnhart now has a financial decision to make.

And when it comes to finances, the decision that will be made will be the one that excites the fans to buy season tickets, parking, concessions, apparel.  At this point, if Mitch Barnhart keeps Joker Phillips (save a 3-0 run to finish the season) how do you promote the program for 2013? How long can the program continue to fund other programs with slipping revenue?  I actually like Joker quite a bit, I’ve met him a handful of times and he’s honestly a great person, and a good football coach.  But there is an important distinction to be made: He’s probably not a good HEAD Football coach.  There is nothing wrong with being an assistant coach in college football.  Especially at a high level where Joker Phillips should be teaching young receivers.  A person can make 6-figures, affect the lives of young people, be around the game, not do too much media.  UK and Coach Phillips tried to make it work, it didn’t. It probably won’t. It’s just time to move in a different direction.

Last season, Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 38-8 and allowed just 9 first downs.  The Cats gained 211 yards.  Max Smith threw for 179 of those yards and of course will not be available on Saturday, so the Cats will have an uphill battle to improve on their 21:06 time of possession from the last time these two teams met.  Vandy QB Jordan Rogers is having a decent season completing 58.9% of his passes for 1458 yard and 5 TDs. Also Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy returns as well, Cat fans probably remember Stacy because of this:

Vanderbilt also has two outstanding targets at Wide Receiver.  Jordan Matthews (6-3, 205, Jr.) has gone off during 2012 with 56 catches for 775 yards and is really just as much of a primary weapon as Stacy is for Vandy.  Secondly, Chris Boyd (6-4, 205, Soph) may trail Matthews by 25 catches, but his yards per catch of 18.7 makes him a big play threat whenever he is one the field and as a result has 541 yards of his own thus far during 2012.

Vandy’s Defense is extremely effective in turning back scoring opportunities and they are excellent against the pass.  The good news is that UK isn’t likely to throw the ball too much, and the Commodore running game is 78th in the nation. If UK is going to beat Vandy on Saturday they are going to have to run the ball. Win on 3rd down and not make silly errors like they have in previous weeks.  Things like losing yards on 1st and 2nd down, or getting to 3rd & long on defense and allowing a first down because of tackling or missed assignments.  Vanderbilt is a beatable opponent, but the Cats have to find something to play for or else be the next step towards a bowl for the Commodores.

Kentucky Vandy
Strength of Schedule (Congrove) 12th 48th
Scoring Offense (ppg) 18.2 (116th) 23.6 (92nd)
Total Offense (ypg) 294.8 (120th) 377.4 (85th)
Passing Offense (ypg) 177.6 (108th) 211.3 (83rd)
Rushing Offense (ypg) 117.22 (108th) 166.13 (57th)
Scoring Defense (ppg) 32.4 (98th) 19.3 (21st)
Total Defense (ypg) 410.1 (72nd) 323.3 (21st)
Passing Defense (ypg) 237.8 (68th) 151.0 (5th)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 172.33 (79th) 172.25 (78th)
First Downs (per game) 17.1 (112th) 18.6 (96th)
Opponent First Downs (per game) 23.1 (95th) 16.9 (16th)
Turnover Margin (season) -4 (88th) -3 (82nd)
Time of Possession 23:52.44 (124th-last) 29:37.38 (65th)
Sacks (per game) 2.11 (53rd) 2.38 (32nd)
Sacks Allowed (per game) 2.22 (83rd) 2.13 (80th)
Tackles for Loss (per game) 4.0 (119th) 7.38 (17th)
Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game) 5.56 (68th) 6.75 (103rd))
Interceptions (season) 4 (100th) 4 (100th)
Passes Defended (per game) 3.0 (115th) 3.88 (87th)
Fumbles Recovered (season) 6 (64th) 4 (100th)
Fumbles Forced (season) 8 (53rd) 7 (68th)
Fumbles Lost (season) 5 (24th) 9 (89th)
3rd Down Conversions (%) 38.71 (78th) 29.2 (120th)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%) 55.22% (123rd) 31.03% (18th)
Red Zone Conversions (%) 77.27% (88th) 70% (114th)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%) 82.5 (74th) 80.77 (52nd)
Field Goal % 50.0% (112th) 78.6 (34th)
Opponent Field Goal % 75% (71st) 100% (118th)
Punt Returns (ypr) 6.07 (88th) 9.05 (55th)
Kickoff Returns (ypr) 21.35 (65th) 22.21 (57th)
Opponent Punt Returns (ypr) 5.05 (30th) 7.17 (61st)
Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr) 21.00 (59th) 20.00 (43rd)
Punting (ypp) 42.85 (35th) 44.92 (13th)
Kicks/Punts Blocked (season) 3 (14th) NA
Penalties (ypg) 35.1 (14th) 47.0 (41st)


Sheriff Preview: Temple 2012

Temple University was a member of the Big East Conference from 1991 to 2004 and was recently added back to the league as a result of conference instability.  Temple was an emergency addition for 2012 after West Virginia accepted an invitation to the Big 12 in October of last year.  Temple took some time to regroup in their 7 year absence from Big East play and really struggled to find its footing in 2005 finishing 0-11, but the program made bold progress under former Head Coach Al Golden (now HC for the Miami Hurricanes).  TU went 1-11 in 2006, 4-8 in 2007, 5-7 in 2008, 9-4 in 2009, and 8-4 in 2010.

When Al Golden elected to make a move to Miami, he didn’t know about the impending investigation at the school OR the fact that Temple would get an invite out of the MAC and into the Big East. Such information might have kept Golden at the school (or gone elsewhere), and not receiving a bowl bid despite being 8-4 likely contributed to his decision. Temple then made a great another hire in Florida Offensive Coordinator Steve Addazio and in their final year in the MAC the Owls went 9-4 and won the New Mexico Bowl easily over Wyoming. In 2012, the school took a sudden leap in competition but they haven’t embarrassed themselves while currently 3-4.  The Owls do have 2 conference wins over South Florida and UConn (OT).

The thing about Temple is that they really have everything in place to build a competitive football program. The Owls play in Lincoln Financial Field and practice in Edberg Olson Hall.  I’m sure an indoor facility would be great this week considering Hurricane Sandy, but the facilities at Temple are more than suitable for top-level football.  But the best thing Temple has going for them is their location.  Philadelphia is a particularly dense city and is very similar to the recruiting advantages that Rutgers enjoys.  You are talking about Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Baltimore, District of Columbia, and New York.  There are more than enough players to choose from to play high level football in that area.

The Cards and Owls have met 5 times and the Owls own the series advantage 2-3.  The Cards have won the two most recent match-ups in 2003 & 2006, with the Cards dropping the first three games in the series in 1980, 1982, and 1983.  This year the Owls have had some relative success considering their jump in competition boasting wins over FCS Villanova and Big East foes South Florida and UConn.  The 4 losses were a 9-point loss to Maryland, 11-points on the road against Penn State, 25-points against ranked Rutgers, and 30-points on the road at Pitt.

Last Meeting

The last meeting was really a lopsided affair.  In 2006 the Owls were in the middle of winning just 1 game out of 23 in a two-year span while the Louisville Cardinals were steaming towards a Big East Championship, Orange Bowl Berth, and a final ranking of 6 or better in every major college football poll.  The game at Lincoln Financial Field saw the Cards roll up 671 yards of offense while allowing just 230.  Many Cardinal fans likely do not remember the game as it was the second game of the season, on the road, and while the fan base was still reeling following Michael Bush’s broken leg suffered during the 2nd half of the Governor’s Cup.

In the 2006 match-up, the usual suspects from that team shined.  Brian Brohm threw for 307 yards before giving way to Hunter Cantwell, while the Cards used 6 different running backs (Kolby Smith, Sergio Spencer, Stripling, Anthony Allen, Brock Bolen, and Deriontae Taylor) and an offensive lineman (Kurt Quarterman) to rush for 312 yards and  7 TDs.  Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas also had big days through the air. Will Gay came down with an INT, Abe Brown had 7 tackles, Zach Anderson, Nate Harris, LT Walker, Malik Jackson, and Latarrius Thomas all had sacks.  It was a dominant performance by the Cards and was the second step of a long march towards elite football.

Statistical Comparison

Louisville Temple
Strength of Schedule (Congrove) 66th 70th
Scoring Offense (ppg) 32.6 (45th) 23.1 (93rd)
Total Offense (ypg) 420.4 (54th) 294.4 (121st)
Passing Offense (ypg) 265.6 (41st) 132.7 (120th)
Rushing Offense (ypg) 154.75 (74th) 161.71 (65th)
Scoring Defense (ppg) 23.0 (41st) 27.7 (66th)
Total Defense (ypg) 340.8 (30th) 407.7 (70th)
Passing Defense (ypg) 206.1 (36th) 246.6 (79th)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 134.63 (37th) 161.14 (64th)
First Downs (per game) 22.6 (38th) 15.3 (124th-last)
Opponent First Downs (per game) 19.9 (53rd) 21.1 (72nd)
Turnover Margin (season) +5 (29th) +3 (38th)
Time of Possession 32:19.00 (16th) 29:09.57 (77th)
Sacks (per game) 1.88 (66th) 2.57 (25th)
Sacks Allowed (per game) 1.88 (65th) 2.14 (82nd)
Tackles for Loss (per game) 4.5 (108th) 5.14 (79th)
Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game) 5.13 (44th) 6.14 (92nd)
Interceptions (season) 6 (74th) 4 (100th)
Passes Defended (per game) 3.88 (87th) 3.86 (95th)
Fumbles Recovered (season) 7 (51st) 9 (19th)
Fumbles Forced (season) 7 (68th) 8 (53rd)
Fumbles Lost (season) 4 (13th) 7 (58th)
3rd Down Conversions (%) 53.7% (5th) 36.19% (93rd)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%) 43.69% (90th) 41.84% (81st)
Red Zone Conversions (%) 97.06% (2nd) 84.21% (40th)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%) 81.48% (63rd) 80.77 (52nd)
Field Goal % 90% (9th) 76.9% (42nd)
Opponent Field Goal % 42.9% (3rd) 50.0 (8th)
Punt Returns (ypr) 5.09 (98th) 9.94 (43rd)
Kickoff Returns (ypr) 19.10 (100th) 22.96 (42nd)
Opponent Punt Returns (ypr) 7.71 (68th) 5.5 (38th)
Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr) 24.40 (106th) 16.08 (5th)
Punting (ypp) 37.48 (114th) 43.83 (21st)
Kicks/Punts Blocked (season) 1 (44th) 2 (28th)
Penalties (ypg) 57.5 (77th) 50.1 (51st)

Louisville Offense vs. Temple Defense

You can’t get started talking about an offensive/defensive match-up when dealing the Louisville Cardinals without starting with Teddy Bridgewater.  The Sophomore with 5 games remaining in the 2012 season is ALREADY #10 All-Time on the Louisville Career Yardage with 4385 total yards (146 rushing) in his short career.  Bridgewater has thrown for 2110 yards and 13 TDs during the 2012 and has shown the past two weeks his ability to be ‘clutch’ in late-game situations despite conditions.

Since the Pitt game, South Florida & Cincinnati decided to take away the Cardinal running game limiting Cardinal running backs to just 56 yards against the Bulls and just 110 against the Bearcats.  It’s a choice that every team MUST decide to make.  Teams can either A) try and take away the passing game and give more space to the run or B) bring pressure and snuff out the run and maybe hit Teddy Bridgewater.  Personally I think opponent’s do have the best chance at beating UofL with option B, BUT Bridgewater is extremely effective at making subtle moves in the pocket, rolling out and stringing out plays while avoiding pressure and finding the open receiver.  Bridgewater’s ability to move (not really run downfield as much) provides Louisville with an answer to really any defensive adjustments that a team could make. Personally I think the best way to beat UofL is to continually change alignments, fronts, pressures, and schemes.  You simply can not allow Teddy Bridgewater to get comfortable.

The first line of defense for Temple starts at Nose Tackle, Levi Brown (6-2, 300, Jr.).  Brown takes up space directly up the middle and does a nice job of holding double teams and making tackles considering his primary responsibility. At 3 technique Shahid Paulhill (6-3, 288, Jr.), should be more active, and as a result Hershey Walton (6-4, 290, R-Fr.) gets a lot of clock in what is really a 3-man rotation at DT for the Owls.  None of these guys are terribly productive, BUT they do a nice job of taking up space.

At defensive end Temple uses a 3-man rotation again with Marcus Green (6-1, 240, Sr.) and John Youboty (6-4, 250, Sr.) as the starters and Sean Daniels (6-3, 230, Jr.) rotates in as needed.  Green and Youboty get the most time, and make the most of it combining for 51 tackles, 7 TFLs, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a blocked kick.  The ends are much more active than the tackles who really try and spread out so that the linebackers can make plays behind them and the ends can shut down the edge and keep contain.

Middle Linebacker Nate D Smith (6-0, 230, R-Fr.) and Weakside LB Tyler Matakevich (6-1, 220, Fr.) might be freshman, but they lead the Owls in tackles, with 107 total between the two first year players.  These two will be the main stoppers when Louisville tries to run the football and their production is due to the front 4 of Temple who do actually play good assignment football.  The problem so far for the Owls is that they aren’t winning inside the gaps.  So while the Owls don’t give up a ton of big plays (except against Pitt) they don’t get a lot of short stops either. Teams can really nickel and dime their way down the field both passing and running the ball.  Pitt goes to nickel a great deal and as a result SAM linebacker Blaze Caponegro (6-1, 218, Jr.) plays only with certain personnel lineups.

Strong Safety: Justin Gildea (5-11, 190, Sr.) & Free Safety: Vaughn Carraway (6-2, 192, Sr.) have to pick up a lot of pieces that Smith and Matakevich don’t clean up themselves.  3rd & 4th on the defense in tackles these two typically are called on quite a bit to help against the run. CB Anthony Robey (5-10, 180, Soph.) is known to blitz at times and is a very good open field tackler whereas Corner Zamel Johnson (6-0, 170, Jr.) really stays on his coverage assignment more often than not.  Because of Gildea and Carraway focusing on the run so much, I believe Louisville should have the deep ball when they want it on Saturday.

I am really looking for the Louisville running game to get back on track versus Temple.  The Owls are 64th in rushing defense, which isn’t bad, but I don’t think Shawn Watson is going to keep Teddy Bridgewater in the pocket for very long and will try to control the game on the ground.  I also think Temple will take the philosophy of USF and UC in bringing as much pressure as they possibly can to try and snuff out the run and try and force Teddy into making bad decisions.

Temple Offense vs. Louisville Defense

Louisville’s defense has had to account for a dual-threat QB in their last 5 games.  On Saturday they will get another in Chris Coyer (6-3, 230, Jr.), and the final 3 games will be QBs of the statue variety.  But when thinking of Temple the Owls and Steve Addazio like to run the ball. Thus far TU has run 296 run plays, 206 passing with 95 rushes from their QB (13.57 per game).  Fortunately though, the passing game isn’t as much of a threat with Coyer as it was with Munchie Legaux or BJ Daniels.  Coyer is hitting on just 55% of his passes for just 870 yards through 7 games.  He has thrown for 8 TDs, but just two receivers have more than 10 catches.  Wide Receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick (5-11, 180, So.) leads the team with 22 catches for 291 yards.  Tight End Cody Booth (6-5, 250, Jr.) is 2nd with just 12 catches for 108 yards and 3 TDs.  Booth will be a key on 3rd down and inside the redzone and MUST be accounted for.

The Owls are currently 121st in Total Offense (out of 124).  The Cards are 30th in Total Defense.  I expect that trend to continue this week.  Louisville will likely be able to play a lot of base 4-3 defense and shouldn’t need to account for the Temple passing game very much.  Outside of Coyer, the Cards will need to focus on Montel Harris (5-10, 207, Sr.) and Matt Brown (5-5, 165, Sr.).  Both of these guys COULD get the ball in the passing game, but more than likely they will be running the football for most of the afternoon.  With the way the Cards can stop the run when not focused on the pass I really think this is bad recipe in terms of match-ups for Temple.

The Temple O-line does have good size: LT, Zach Hooks (6-6, 280, r-FR.); LG, Jeff Whittingham (6-2, 305, Jr.); C, Sean Boyle (6-5, 300, Sr.); RG Kyle Friend (6-2, 300, Fr.); RT, Martin Wallace (6-6, 300, Sr.).  But they are going to need to be more than just big.  Louisville’s defensive line should excel as should the linebacking corps of Durant, K. Brown, and P. Brown who really all have a great nose for the run game.  Personally I’ll be surprised if Temple can get 12 or more 1st downs.

I personally think we’ll see a lot of base defense in a 4-3 alignment with both Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor playing much closer to the line of scrimmage than we’ve seen all year.  My thought is that Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford are going to make Coyer beat them through the air and give the Owls very little running room.  Rutgers allowed Temple to gain just 191 yards, the Scarlet Knights are the best defense in the Big East in 2012, and the Cards need to make a similar statement to go 9-0.

My Prediction

Temple isn’t an opponent Louisville can take lightly.  I’m not sure if any opponent during 2012 can be taken lightly for the Louisville Cardinals.  The Owls are competitive, but they   are a few seasons away from being able to compete at the top of the Big East in my opinion.  Al Golden and Steve Addazio have done a great job of building the roster and now that they are out of the MAC and at a higher level they can begin recruiting at a higher level as well.

One thing though, Temple’s offense being one-dimensional will hurt the Owls against Temple.  Sure Coyer CAN throw, but it’s just not a huge part of the offense.  Having just two receiving threats to worry about for a defense like Louisville’s (see Rutgers results) is a recipe for defeat.  Throw in the fact that Temple really isn’t stopping many people through the air or on the ground and I have to see a big win for the Cards.  Temple MIGHT be able to get on the practice field on Wednesday, but this late in the season that could actually be a blessing in disguise.

I see Louisville winning this one pretty easily. Cards 38 Owls 6

Attending, Watching, Listening

-There are about 50 tickets available on Ticketmaster at the moment, and there are others on StubHub that are available as well.

-The game will be broadcast at noon on ABC.  Coverage Map & personalities have yet to be revealed.

-Over the radio waves the game will be broadcast on 840 WHAS in Louisville or Sirius Channel 92, or XM Channel 194 with Paul Rogers, Doug Ormay and Joe Tronzo.

-In Philadelphia the game will be broadcast on 1210 AM WPHT with Harry Donahue & Steve Joachim.


-With a win the Cards would have their first 9-0 start in school history.

-Temple has two wins against ranked teams in its history.



UofL Extends Rick Pitino’s Contract to 2022

From UofL SID:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville Athletic Association, Inc. has extented the contract of men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino through the 2021-22 season, adding five years to his existing agreement and keeping him with the Cardinals for another 10 seasons.

“He’s a young guy, I’ve said it many times, he might be 60 but he’s going on 35, maybe even younger than that,” said Tom Jurich, Vice President and Director of Athletics. “He’s got an incredible amount of energy, and he’s worked extremely hard. We just love the direction this program is going. I’d really like to see him continue on as long as he possibly can.”

Pitino was named head coach of the Cardinals on March 21, 2001 and his previous agreement had him tied to UofL through the 2016-17 season.

The first coach in NCAA history to take three different teams to the NCAA Final Four, Pitino’s up-tempo style, pressure defense, strong work ethic and family atmosphere have restored the Cardinals to national prominence, with national rankings, a pair of Final Fours and a visit to at least the final eight teams of the NCAA Tournament in four of the last eight years as evidence.

In 27 seasons as a collegiate head coach at five different schools, Pitino has compiled a 629-234 record, a .729 winning percentage that ranks him 11th among active coaches. He has a 275-106 record in 11 seasons at UofL, the third winningest coach in Cardinal history. UofL is among the nations’ top 15 programs in winning percentage over the last decade under his guidance.

Pitino’s most recent Cardinals manufactured a thrilling March run that delighted UofL fans. After winning his 600th collegiate coaching victory in the Cards’ opening game of the 2011-12 season, UofL embarked on a terrific season in which it won 30 games, claimed the BIG EAST Tournament championship and reached UofL’s ninth Final Four and Pitino’s sixth, a feat matched by only seven other coaches all-time.

That followed another season of success.  Despite opening the season with no regular returning starters in 2010-11, the Cardinals tied for third in the nation’s toughest conference and reached the title game of the BIG EAST Championship.  Louisville beat seven Top 25 teams and rose to the national rankings themselves after not receiving a single vote in the preseason AP poll.

In 2009-10, Louisville reached 20 victories for the eighth straight year against a top-five rated schedule.  Along the way, U of L tied for fifth in arguably the nation’s toughest league, beat then top-ranked Syracuse in the regular season finale, and played in the Cards’ 36th NCAA Tournament.

The Cardinals earned both the BIG EAST Conference regular season and tournament championships in 2008-09, won 31 games — fifth most in school history — and gained the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament before reaching the NCAA Elite Eight for the second straight year. UofL earned its first ever Associated Press No. 1 ranking in the final poll. His 2009-10 squad eached 20 victories for the eighth straight year against a top-five rated schedule, including beating then top-ranked Syracuse in the regular season finale,

Five years ago, his Cardinals overcame early injuries to its front line to win 27 games against a schedule rated as the fourth-toughest in the nation. An aggressive, multiple defensive attack helped UofL earn a second-place finish in the BIG EAST for the second consecutive year and advance to the Cards’ second NCAA Elite Eight appearance in four years.

In 2007-08, Pitino’s youthful squad also battled through injuries to win eight of its last ten games and rise among the nation’s top 20 teams over the last four weeks. The Cards won 24 games, including a pair on the road over top 15 ranked teams, earned a second-pace finish in the Big East Conference and were No. 16 in the final Associated Press ranking.

The Cardinals were No. 3 in the nation in the final 2004-05 ESPN/USA Today poll while posting a stellar 33-5 record, matching the most victories in UofL history. UofL won its first-ever Conference USA regular season title and also claimed the league tournament championship. Louisville reached its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 1997 as the No. 4 seed in the Albuquerque Regional before advancing to its first NCAA Final Four since 1986. Pitino, who made his fifth Final Four appearance, became the first coach ever to guide teams from three different schools to the Final Four.

The successes of the 2005 Final Four squad were built upon the efforts of his early teams at UofL. Five years ago, the Cardinals won 16 straight during one stretch and rose to as high as fourth in the national polls before a trio of key injuries disrupted the Cardinals’ flight. UofL won 20 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in six years. Pitino gained his 400th career coaching victory with a 73-65 victory over then top-ranked Florida on Dec. 13, 2003, the first of two wins that season UofL achieved over No. 1 ranked foes.

In his second year at UofL in 2002-03, the Cardinals reached the No. 2 position in the Associated Press poll and spent time as the nation’s top team in the Ratings Percentage Index and Sagarin Ratings. After a 1-1 start, the Cardinals reeled off an incredible 17 straight victories, one short of the school record and the second-highest ever in Conference USA history. UofL won its first-ever C-USA Tournament title.

Pitino did not wait for the Cardinals to make an upward move. In his first year at Louisville in 2001-02, he guided an undersized, often outmanned squad to a 19-13 record, upsetting the nation’s fourth-ranked team along the way to earning a post-season tournament appearance in the NIT, nearly reversing the Cardinals fortunes the season prior to his arrival (12-19 in 2000-01).

Even under great adversity, Pitino’s teams have persevered. After losing 60 percent of its scoring and four key upperclassmen from its 2005 NCAA Final Four team, Louisville battled through destructive injuries and inexperience during the 2005-06 season to post a 21-13 record in its first year in the BIG EAST Conference, concluding the year in the NIT national semifinals.

A 2006 inductee to the New York City Hall of Fame, Pitino has the sixth-highest winning percentage in NCAA Tournament games among active coaches, winning 72.4 percent of his games in the post-season event with a 42-16 record in 17 tournament appearances. He is one of a select group of eight coaches who have taken teams from four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. He is one of eight coaches all-time who have reached the Final Four on at least six occasions.

Pitino’s impact goes beyond the teaching, motivation and X’s and O’s of his on-the-court skills. His incredible charisma, tireless work ethic, captivating speaking skills and widespread appeal not only mesmerize the Cardinal faithful, but have the college basketball world abuzz as well. His arrival in Louisville has generated incredible attention beyond the borders of the state he and his family have come to love.

Pitino is known for getting his players to believe in themselves, instilling the desire to succeed and driving his players to overachieve. His former players speak of their coach’s caring nature beyond their basketball skills.

For three and a half years, Pitino served as president and head coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. With the Celtics, he took over a team that had posted a franchise worst 15-67 record before his arrival. He quickly made an impact, improving the Celtics’ victory total by 21 games in his first season. He resigned his position with the storied franchise on Jan. 8, 2001 after compiling a 102-146 record there.

He guided Kentucky to three NCAA Final Four appearances in his last five years at Kentucky, winning the 1996 NCAA Championship and reaching the national title game in 1997. In eight seasons with the Wildcats, he amassed a 219-50 record (.814) while winning two league crowns and an impressive 17-1 record in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

While at Kentucky, Pitino coached three Wildcats who earned All-America honors and eight players who were drafted by the NBA, including six in the first round (three lottery picks).

Pitino, 60, got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Hawai’i in 1974 and served as a full-time assistant there in 1975-76 when he was the head coach for the last six games of the season (2-4) when the head coach was relieved of his duties.  He served two seasons as an assistant at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim from 1976-78.

Pitino was only 25 years old when he accepted his first head coaching job at Boston University in 1978. He produced a 91-51 record in five years there, departing as the most successful coach in BU history. In his final season there, he guided the Terriers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 24 years. He was twice named New England Coach of the Year (1979, 1983).

Pitino left Boston U. to become an assistant coach for the New York Knicks from 1983-85, where he worked with head coach Hubie Brown. It was a team he would return to lead as its head coach in two seasons.

He was head coach at Providence College for two seasons (1985-87), producing a 42-23 record there. He guided the Friars to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1986 and an improbable trip to the NCAA Final Four in 1987, winning the regional title in Freedom Hall.

Before his stint at Kentucky, Pitino served as head coach of the New York Knicks for two seasons. In his initial year there in 1987-88, the Knicks improved by 14 victories and made the NBA Playoffs for the first time in four seasons. The Knicks won 52 games in 1988-89 and swept the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Aside from his hoops prowess, Pitino has achieved success off the court as well in such realms as broadcasting, publishing, motivational speaking and horse racing. He is an accomplished author, producing such books as the best seller “Success Is A Choice” and “Lead to Succeed.”

He earned his degree in 1974 at Massachusetts, where he was a standout guard for the Minutemen’s basketball team. His 329 career assists rank eighth all-time at UMass and his 168 assists as a senior is the sixth-best single season total ever there. Pitino was a freshman during NBA legend Julius Erving’s senior year.

Born Sept. 18, 1952, Pitino is a native of New York City where he was a standout guard for Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, Long Island. There, he captained his team and established several school scoring marks.

Pitino and his wife Joanne have five children — Michael, Christopher, Richard, Ryan and Jacqueline — and five grandchildren — Anna, Audrey (Michael and wife Bethany’s children), Andrew, James (Christopher and wife Brucie’s children), and Ava (Richard and wife Jill’s child).

Russ Smith Media Day 2012

Russ talks about game icing free throws versus Florida, the horse who bears his nickname, expectations for the 2012-13 season, looking forward to the National Championship Game, Gorgui ordering room service & playing African music, throwing food at Wayne Blackshear, and being Russdiculous.

He also does a small Dick Vitale impersonation in the video.

Commentary (& highlight video): Cards top Cinci in OT

Watching the game unfold as it did from field level, everyone had a feleling this was something special in the making.  The feeling became a reality, and left us with one of our most satisfying victories of the Charlie Strong Era.

Here are 5 thoughts from Friday’s game.

1. Munchie Eats His Words: His comments apparently fell on deaf ears, because Strong said in his post-game interview: “we focused on stopping the run game, and tried to make Munchie beat us with his arm”. I bet if Munchie heard Strong’s comments after his bold proclamation it was a deflating moment. Kind of like playing Texas hold’em, going all-in on a bluff, and then the next guy goes all-in right on top of you. All-in-all, Munchie is a great athlete, just not a great QB.

2. The Fans: Amazing crowd. It was cold. It was rainy. It was windy. These fans would not be denied. Packed house, loud, and not going anywhere. To me, considering the conditions – this is a top 5 fan game in my lifetime. I am pretty old, so that is a compliment.

3. Defense: As much as we get frustrated with our D, they held Cinci below all their offensive averages. Many games we feel like the D can play better, and they probably can. However, the reality is – we wouldn’t be 8-0 without them. 5 of our last 6 games were won by less than a single TD, and I can name many plays the D provided to point to that final margin. Goal line stands, interceptions, end of game stops. I think it is time to start believing in our D, and enjoy watching them improve. Some of what we see was by design. Strong wanted to stop the run against Cinci.  He allowed Munchie to pass. While not wildly successful, Munchie did connect on many passes. Not enough to win, and there you have it.  Strong’s plan worked. Abernathy’s 20 yard TD when looking bottled up is probably why Strong was more concerned with the run.

4. Meet John Wallace: I will forgive John for missing the 57 yard FG attempt in the rain (and wind). Hitting the game winner has to give him credibility. I asked him after the game “You had a short angle, rain, wind, and game on the line – what 1 thing would you take away?” He responded, “Rain, because so much can go wrong with a wet ball”. I would have thought wind, but that is why I am not a college kicker. If I was, I would have to play for BYU and claim Mormon-hood, because as I said earlier, I am way too old for college.

5. Offense: In a game where Cinci focused on stopping our run, we still managed over 100 yards, and 2 YD’s on the ground. That is a BAD game. How far we have come. We are lucky to have the O-line and RB’s we have. We have so many options to find ourselves out of a pickle, and the right QB at the helm. Speaking of “Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!”; Calmest Cardinal Competitor since Never Nervous Pervis Ellison. Never Nervous is taken; I guess Steady Teddy is the best we have for now. Let’s work on it. If the Cardinals lose a ball game on a failed final drive, it will not be a result of nerves, pressure, loud fans, or choking. It will be a result of having a well-executed play falling short, or a defense that flat out earned the stop. That is SO comforting to me as a fan.

8-0, and on to Temple.  Go Cards.

FB: #16 Louisville 34 vs. Cinci 31 (OT) from @CrumsRevenge on Vimeo.