- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

Rick Pitino always has been full of himself, dating to his days at Providence, where he stepped into the national spotlight after leading the Friars to the Final Four in 1987.

The man could talk. And talk. And talk.

He was reinventing the game of basketball. Or at least he wanted you to believe that.

In 1987, the first season of the 3-point shot in college basketball, he took what was thought to be a modest team, whipped it into top physical shape and employed the new gimmick as a blunt instrument.

His sycophants in the media found him endearing. He could fill up a notebook. He could rhapsodize about all things basketball. Ask him a question and he might go nonstop the next 15 minutes.

Now his one-time sycophants in the media are tuning him out during his summer of discontent.

Pitino has been reduced to trying to talk his way out of the lurid business that took place in a restaurant six years ago. He has been reduced to trying to kill the messenger that airs each X-rated nugget. It is a fight that he cannot win, even if he feels compelled to give it the good old college try.

He instructed members of the press how do their job during an impromptu press conference in Louisville last week. He urged the fans of his basketball program “to the turn the channel” after a Louisville television station aired portions of the woman’s taped interviews with police.

He was hoping that his former sycophants in the media would grant him another free pass. He was hoping that they would ignore that Pitino always has been about Pitino and that those who employ him do so at their risk.

There is always another opportunity with Pitino. There is always another place that will take to his smooth talk, just as there will be another place after Louisville.

His salesmanship is his most impressive quality, perfect for the college game. He can sell himself to blue-chip teens with stories of this Final Four appearance or that one and he can tell stories of his days in the NBA.

They were not good days in the NBA, because men can see through the facade far easier than impressionable teens. You cannot reach NBA players with foot stomping and histrionics. You have to coach them with psychology tomes at your side.

It is not that anyone in the media has been fooled by Pitino all these years. It was just easier not to call him on it.

But now he appears to be a coach who believes all his press clippings.

“Enough is enough,” he said.

Alas, Pitino is not the one who gets to make that call.

If he thinks it is unfair now, wait until he is on the road in the Big East next season and the undergraduates unleash their creativeness on him. Is he going to call a press conference at halftime to deliver a tantrum?

Pitino wants it both ways. He wants the story told of how he is the big man on campus, taking three different schools to the Final Four. He wants that story told as often as possible because it burnishes the Pitino brand and results in yet more opportunities.

But while he has lapped up all the redundant dispatches that have portrayed him as one of the giants of college basketball all these years, he does not want the story of his late-night romp with a woman not his wife to receive the attention of the 24/7 media marketplace.

No one forced Pitino to become a brand. He is the one who has been working on it all these years; courted and reveled in it.

He is right. The story is unseemly, intrusive, hard to stomach.

But it is not going away anytime soon. That is the deal.

He is Rick Pitino, college coach extraordinaire in a basketball-crazy state.

He made the decisions that led him to this point. Live with it.

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