Mixing It Up on College Basketball Scene with 2 Young Coaches, Rick Pitino and Jim Valvano

Former Boston Celtics head coach Rick Pitino has gotten himself in loads of hot water the past few years as coach at the University of...

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Former Boston Celtics head coach Rick Pitino has gotten himself in loads of hot water the past few years as coach at the University of Louisville.

However, as we heard on Bob Ryan’s Boston Podcast, he is not without fans in the media remaining by his side.

 

Podcast guest Lesley Visser, a Boston-native and veteran of the Boston Globe, ESPN, CBS and ABC, remembered Pitino as a young coach at Boston University.

“He was great,” Visser said. “It was great to cover him on the beat, because we both could try things. He would try the fullcourt press… You could tell he had it. He was a student of the game. He knew the game and loved the game.”

Pitino was a 25-year-old head coach of the Terriers back then, before leading Providence to the Final Four and winning a title in Kentucky. Ryan and Visser credit him with being ahead of the curve on the 3-point shot and his recruiting ability.

Unfortunately, a failed trial in the NBA (102-146 record with the Celtics after a stop in New York), followed.

After immense amounts of success back at the college ranks at Louisville, Pitino has been hammered by the NCAA. Over the span of less than a month last fall, news broke of federal prosecutors investigating Louisville about a potential paid player, who signed a deal with Adidas, and Pitino was ultimately fired.

“In this whole disruption of college basketball, I feel like Rick is the only guy they got,” said Visser. “They kind of quit after him.”

Ryan pressed the issue in the interview, asking how Visser reconcile’s her friendship with Pitino in the wake of not only this professional scandal, but the coach’s personal issues.

Back in 2009, Pitino was involved in another legal fiasco that involved a woman trying to extort money from him after the two had an affair in a Louisville restaurant. The woman was the wife of his team’s equipment manager.

Visser acknowledged that many athletes she has dealt with in her job are not faithful, and brought up the extortion.

“I think they’re separate issues,” she said.. “This latest one, I really think you cannot keep your eye on every second of every assistant. To me, Rick’s problem was that he started hiring guys that really weren’t the same class… He’d had really solid guys as assistants, but once you start hiring low-level, you’re going to get low-level.”

Visser, who Ryan states has worked the Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, Olympics, Super Bowl, World Figure Skating and US Open Tennis in her legendary career, also chatted briefly about some other coaches like Jim Valvano and Rick Majerus.

Of Valvano, who coached NC State to the 1983 title, she thought he could have been a comedian.

Of Majerus, who holds a career 517-215 record at the college level, Visser remembers his greatness, humility and love for the game, and, of course, food.

CLNS Media was on hand to record this live podcast at Wahlburgers in Hingham, MA. Watch the clip above, then listen to Bob Ryan’s Boston Podcast in full.