Rick Pitino became Louisville's basketball coach on Wednesday, returning to the state where he won a national championship in 1996 as coach of the rival Kentucky Wildcats.
Several hundred Louisville fans, city officials and past and current players gathered for a pep rally where Pitino was introduced.
"I know all of you were not fond of me when I was Kentucky's coach and I'll make no bones about it--I'll always love UK and my players," Pitino said. "Now it's my time to lead the Cardinals back to prominence."
Pitino, who won the national title at Kentucky, resigned as coach and president of the Boston Celtics in January after 3 1/2 disappointing seasons.
His hiring at Louisville follows a bold, aggressive courtship by Athletic Director Tom Jurich, who acted as a one-man search committee. Jurich said two weeks ago that Pitino was his only candidate for the job.
"It's been the year from hell, but I see heaven on the horizon," Jurich said.
Pitino has not signed a contract, but Jurich said he has agreed to a six-year deal, worth about $1 million a year.
Pitino, 48, replaces Denny Crum, who retired after months of strained relations with Jurich. Crum, 64, who led Louisville to NCAA championships in 1980 and '86, had two seasons left on his contract, but accepted a $7 million buyout.
Pitino, who was courted by Michigan and Nevada Las Vegas, said wife Joanne helped persuade him to take the Louisville job. He said he almost decided to take the Michigan job Wednesday morning.
"She said, 'I think you love the state of Kentucky, you love the people you met at [the university]. I think you should go back to the place you love,' " Pitino said.
The Cardinals finished this season 12-19, capping the worst four-year run in Crum's 30 years. Louisville is 62-62 since reaching the NCAA regional finals in 1997 and was twice put on probation in the 1990s.
Seton Hall freshman forward Eddie Griffin is "very close" to declaring his eligibility for the NBA draft, The Record of Bergen County reported. The report said Griffin met with Pirate Coach Tommy Amaker on Tuesday and has told a few teammates he is ready to leave.
Attorneys for Rutgers and fired coach Kevin Bannon continued talks in an attempt to finalize the terms of his buyout, with speculation mounting that the school might use a couple of embarrassing incidents to avoid paying off the remainder of his contract.
The most notable incident was a strip free-throw shooting contest after which two players and a team manager ran wind sprints in the nude. The players, center Josh Sankes and guard Earl Johnson, transferred, claiming they were humiliated. Sankes went to Holy Cross and Johnson to Iona.
Bannon contended that no one was forced to remove clothes or run. A lawsuit stemming from the incident was dismissed last year.
Wisconsin Athletic Director Pat Richter that he spoke with Utah Coach Rick Majerus about coaching the Badgers and that he hoped to have a longer conversation with him early next week.
"We haven't set up anything yet. I don't expect to meet with him for four or five days," Richter said.
St. Mary's Coach Dave Bollwinkel resigned after the Gaels ended the season with a 20-game losing streak. Bollwinkel had a 25-79 record in four seasons at St. Mary's. . . . Buffalo was put on two years' probation by the NCAA for recruiting violations under former coach Tim Cohane. The NCAA infractions committee ruled the team broke rules on preseason practices, recruiting tryouts, scouting of opponents and in allowing players to make long-distance phone calls for free from the school.
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Division I coaches who were fired, resigned or retired during or after this season:
School Coach Reason Cal Poly SLO Jeff Schneider Resigned Denver Marty Fletcher Fired Drexel Steve Seymour Fired Duquesne Darelle Porter Resigned Florida A&M Mickey Clayton Fired Idaho David Farrar Fired La Salle Speedy Morris Fired Louisville Denny Crum Retired Massachusetts Bruiser Flint Resigned Michigan Brian Ellerbe Fired Morgan State Chris Fuller Fired Nev. Las Vegas Bill Bayno Fired New Orleans Joey Stiebing Fired North Texas Vic Trilli Fired Northeastern Rudy Keeling Fired Northern Iowa Sam Weaver Resigned Ohio Larry Hunter Fired Old Dominion Jeff Capel Resigned Portland Rob Chavez Fired Rhode Island Jerry DeGregorio Resigned Rutgers Kevin Bannon Fired St. Mary's David Bollwinkel Fired South Carolina Eddie Fogler Resigned Southern Tommy Green Reassigned Stetson Murray Arnold Resigned Tennessee Jerry Green Resigned Tex. Southern Robert Moreland Fired Texas Tech James Dickey Fired Towson Mike Jaskulski Fired Wisconsin Dick Bennett Resigned Wisconsin Brad Soderberg* Fired
Cal Poly SLO: Kevin Bromley
Idaho: Leonard Perry
Indiana: Mike Davis*
Louisville: Rick Pitino
Northern Illinois: Rob Judson
* interim coach this season