Pitino Growing His Confidence

TONY VANETTI: Two big wins by both teams on last-second shots. Louisville does it on the road, Kentucky tussled with LSU and wins it in the end. You’ve got to be pretty proud of those young Wildcats.

MATT JONES: Well, it was a big win for Kentucky in the way that they won. They were supposed to win by more than that, but for some reason when they play LSU, the Tigers become one of the best teams in the country. But it’s the first time I’ve seen smiles on those guy’s faces in a long time. The jubilation from that last-second shot, I hope it carries over for them. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge turnaround, but seeing something positive happen for them could be good for them.

TONY VANETTI: There were two interesting things on Cal’s radio show – and hey, congratulations, Cal showed up for his radio show. He saying he has seven Marquis Teagues, and if he can get them to play like Marquis Teague at the end of the 2012 season, then they’ll be pretty good. Does that disturb you? It’s February, and he’s saying you still have seven Marquis Teagues on your team.

JONES: And I’m glad you’re sad about Cal not doing the radio show, which is listened to by dozens of listeners across the state. And I say this with all the love and respect, because Calipari is my guy: there comes a point during the season that I just sort of tune him out, and we’ve kind of reached that point. I think he’s said all that can be said, but part of being the UK coach is that you have to talk so much and have to basically say all the words in the dictionary at some point. I don’t know what the seven Marquis Teagues means or doesn’t mean. What I do think matters is he believes that this team can compete with anybody this year, and I agree with that. College basketball as a whole is not strong this year, so they have a shot. Same thing with Louisville this year. I think they have a shot. Nobody is great. Louisville has lots of weaknesses, but Kentucky has lots of weaknesses, but there’s nobody that has no weaknesses, so why not Kentucky and why not Louisville?

VANETTI: Yes, poor Cal, he has to talk about his team more than other coaches have to talk about their teams. Come on.

JONES: It doesn’t really matter. The only people who care about whether Cal does his radio show are people on radio. And while I’m on radio, the only person I want to hear on radio is myself, so it doesn’t matter if Cal is there or not.

VANETTI: All right, well, Louisville and Kentucky both have four games left in the season, and in my opinion they’ll both go 3-1. Louisville will lose to SMU on the road but will beat Connecticut, Temple and Memphis. I think you guys will run the table and lose at Florida.

JONES: I think that’s a fair assessment. I think that Kentucky as 3-1 should be fine. I think you might have a slight concern with the South Carolina game because it’s a Thursday-Saturday and then they go on the road. In general, those teams have bad records. But they should be alright. With Louisville, I think they are more likely to lose to Memphis on the road than SMU, but they played them okay last time and it really doesn’t matter. But judging Louisville is impossible. I don’t know how good these teams are that they play. I’m not sure how good SMU is. I don’t think Cincinnati is all that great. But I like what I’ve seen from Louisville in terms of defense, because their defense is better and that’s what you want to hang your hat on. And then you have Russ Smith. Because if you have Russ Smith you always have a chance, because you have someone who will take that last shot at the end, and that was a big win for them – even though I was pulling hard for Cincinnati.

VANETTI: I was excited for Calipari, because apparently one of his new initiatives is that he is assigning a bench player to cheer for a person on the court while they are playing on the court.

JONES: I like that, I think it’s very smart.

VANETTI: At some point you’ve got to laugh…

JONES: Look, we do the same things at Clear Channel. I’m assigned to make sure that Dave Jennings gets up and feels good about himself everyday, Terry Meiners is assigned to make sure you don’t put in too much hair gel each day. I like that, it’s the buddy system. We look out for each other.

VANETTI: And my job is to referee you and then individually everybody else in the building.

JONES: But there’s the thing about Cal. He’s got to figure out a way to motivate a group of people that have had a tough year. And you have to figure out something, but if it works, it works. But let’s not act like Rick Pitino has not done something stupid. That stupid beard he’s grown – that looks like the type of beard that a 95-year-old man would grow if he tried. It’s the most ridiculous thing of all time. You must agree, Tony?

VANETTI: Well, no, not yet. I think he’s like a young teenager. He needs it to grow in. But right now he’s incapable of growing one. But I’ve seen pictures of you, Mr. Bangs, and you’ve had some interesting looks. But it does look like from the outside looking in that Rick Pitino is having fun coaching this team, but I’m not sure Cal is having the time of his life with his.

JONES: Or it looks like Pitino is having a midlife crisis. He has the tattoo. Now he has the beard. All he needs is the sports car and the bald spot which he would have if he didn’t have hair plugs.

VANETTI: So you’re 36 and acting 26, so your mid-life crisis will come sometime when you’re 60?

JONES: Well, let’s be clear: 35 and I act 25, because that’s what I’m supposed to do to make people happy. But back to what I was saying. Pitino’s beard is kind of funny, and I kind of like it, and I can see if I was on that team I would think it’s good. But a part of me wants them to keep on winning, just to see how bad it will look. Because the scra ggliness is the story of the year. And by the way: as Oscar Combs said, “A man whose hair is that dark should not be growing a beard that white.” I think we finally have proof that the guy dyes his hair.