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He’s Back!

By Dr. John Huang

OK. Be honest now–you missed him didn’t you?

Now that Rick Pitino has snaked his way back into the college coaching fraternity, we can all give Iona’s new head man a more-than-gracious fist bump. After all, if Coach Cal extended the olive branch to the man who gave us the finger, then we should all be just as forgiving, right?

King of the ‘Ville

Just a few short seasons ago, immediately after Louisville upended Kentucky 73-70 in their annual Armageddon basketball showdown, Rick Pitino was toasting himself in his palatial YUM Center media room, basking in a rare conquest over his arch nemesis, John Calipari. Pitino was nearly giddy with ecstasy, admitting to reporters how great this win felt after being dominated so long by the blue-clad mongrel hordes from seventy miles up the Interstate. Although it took Quentin Snider’s game-of-his-life to pull the Cardinals through, this was supposedly a season defining victory that would propel the Cards on to another championship banner, and Pitino to sainthood status within the River City.

Serving time in Purgatory

Things didn’t quite work out like Rick had hoped. In a blink of an eye, he was completely out of college basketball. Now, after a year laboring in the land of gyros and ouzo, King Rick is making his triumphant return. He’s distanced himself from that ugly lawsuit with his former employer, having been abruptly fired from his dream job for conduct unbecoming of a leader of young men. Marital infidelity, strippers in Minardi Hall, and bribes to shoe companies banished traitor Rick hundreds of miles away from the state upon which he so pompously preyed.

I missed Rick Pitino

I’ll be completely honest, though, I missed Rick Pitino. I missed his demonic scowl, the spittle flying from his lips, and his deathly pale countenance as he pranced along the Rupp Arena sidelines. I missed him and his custom Armani suits, the patterned silk tie, and his perfectly dyed hair yelling animatedly at his minions while condescendingly berating the men in striped shirts. After another devastating loss, there’s something gratifying about watching his obligatory post-game handshake with Calipari—envy, resentment, and bitterness oozing out from every one of his jealous pores. In fact, I miss all the vitriol, venom, and vindictiveness suddenly absent from one of the best rivalries in college basketball. Because without Rick as the villain, you simply can’t hate Louisville anymore.

Chris Mack he’s not

You can’t really hate current Cardinals coach Chris Mack either–at least not yet. I’m sure he’s a decent coach, but he’s no crypt keeper. He hasn’t snobbishly mocked Kentucky fans while flipping off an entire BBN on his way out of Rupp. Mack hasn’t showered his team with outlandish hyperbole while simultaneously dissing the city of Lexington, its working-class citizens, and its entire restaurant scene. He hasn’t come close to mimicking his predecessor by sweating through a gaudy white suit or squeezing into a skin-tight shirt and making a bon-a-fide mockery of himself. Bravo Pitino he’s not.

Let’s all face it–victories over U of L just weren’t the same without Rick. They weren’t as satisfying because they just weren’t as personal. In past years, when the Wildcats won, it was more or less a vindicating coronation—a validation that good still can triumph over evil. Don’t get me wrong–wins were still nice, they just weren’t totally fulfilling.

Benedict Arnold is back

So, now he’s back–not quite in that villainous role of Benedict Arnold–but back nonetheless. Personally, I can’t wait to see the guy back out on the court. Especially if it ends up being the Rupp Arena Court. Truthfully, I never cared if Kentucky beat up on little brother, I just wanted them to beat up on Rick. Perhaps now they’ll have another golden opportunity.

Love him or hate him, Rick Pitino is back–and he’s looking to kick our ass.

Portions of this blog posting were previously published as part of

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at

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