Coach K, Pitino Recall ‘The Game’
Indianapolis — We know, we know, we know.
You’re tired of hearing about it, sick of reading about it, darn-near nauseous from the thousands of times you’ve been forced to watch that incessant last-second snippet of it.
Please indulge us one more time.
Today is the Midwest Region finals pitting Louisville against Duke, the first NCAA Tournament face-off between Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski since “that” game, the greatest college basketball game ever played, that 1992 East Region finals in Philadelphia.
Duke 104, Kentucky 103.
The game Christian Laettner won.
“I know Kentucky fans don’t like him,” Pitino, then the coach at Kentucky, now the coach at Louisville, said yesterday. “But I did a Vitamin Water commercial with him and got to know him — and I still don’t like him.”
There was laughter, because they can all laugh about it now.
“I’m only kidding,” Pitino said. “He’s a great guy.”
We being the media and this being a Captain Obvious angle — two great coaches in the same spot all these years later — we mined the story lines at yesterday’s news conferences at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Krzyzewski: “I have thought about how important it is. It’s one of those moments in time that helped define our sport. When I’ve talked to Rick about it, we realize we were lucky guys. We had different roles at that time, but we were both lucky to be there.”
Pitino: “We’ve been friends from that point on. Both of us looked at the game a lot different than the Kentucky fans or, for that matter, the Duke fans. Both of us just sat back and coached and watched an incredible offensive display.
“Anytime you write a whole book about one game, it’s kind of special.”
Krzyzewski: “I think when the basketball gods deem you worthy enough to put you in a great moment, sometimes you’re placed in that moment as a winner, and sometimes you lose, but sometimes the loser shines more than the winner. I thought how (Pitino) reacted and has reacted since made him shine. And I respect that.”
Pitino: “I think it was such a high-scoring game with so much perfection in the way the players passed and shot the ball, that’s what made it stand the test of time. It wasn’t a slowdown game.”
Krzyzewski: “I will always remember the stark — the difference in emotion, the result of the game, because really right in front of me, Richie Farmer collapsed.
“And I see our guys jump and I see him fall. And really I was more taken by Richie. And I understood by looking at him — I could never understand completely because it didn’t happen to me — but just how tough that was.”
Pitino: “The mistake I made is I said we’re going to sandwich (Laettner), it’s going to him. ... But then I grabbed (John) Pelphrey and (Deron) Feldhaus and I said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t foul him. He hasn’t missed a shot.’ I shouldn’t have done that. That was the mistake I made.”
Krzyzewski: “To me, even though his team lost in a very heartbreaking fashion, the most heartbreaking fashion there could be, that group that had gotten them there was elevated even more.
“Like they had started in the dirt, you know, and all of a sudden they were in the highest moment and they were knocked back and Kentucky honored them forever.”
Pitino: “The fascinating thing about that game, we lost and it cost us the Final Four and when we got back, four of those guys had their names retired to the rafters the day after that game, which was incredible when you think about it, because Kentucky always puts All-Americans up there.
“Farmer, Feldhaus, (Sean) Woods and Pelphrey were put up there because they all stayed, they didn’t leave ... they went from a scandal-ridden group that didn’t play to having their jerseys retired in a loss. So it’s pretty darned special for those guys and me.”
Krzyzewski: “It’s like one of those things where you have this — you shared something that no one else could share. So we’ll always be real close as a result of that.”
Pitino: “I do think about it often, not in a revenge standpoint, but just as a great game that I was happy to be part of.”
Now that didn’t hurt too bad, did it?