Rick Pitino sat for the usual round of interviews after he and the Louisville Cardinals cut down the nets last night. He broke down the game, talked about his highest anxiety moments, the strategic changes, and the challenges his team faced all season.
Speaking of one of the Michigan players, Pitino said: “we knew he could shoot, but we didn’t know he could take us off the bounce.” Understandable. Michigan was quicker off the dribble than I thought. But that’s not the point.
The point is “us.” The point is “we.” Rick Pitino has been doing this so long that he’s fluent in team-speak. And I don’t mean “conversant.” I mean “fluent.”
If you’re learning Spanish, and you stick with it, there will come a time when you can hold an actual conversation in Spanish. The first time you do this, however, you’d still be thinking in English. You are only truly fluent when you can think in Spanish.
Now, I can take or leave Rick Pitino. He’s accomplished; he seems like a nice man, but I have no regard for him one way or another. But I can tell you this: Rick Pitino thinks in team. You can see it in how he talks, his immediate reactions, and his mannerisms.
I thought about this last night listening to the nuances of his interviews. His job was, and always has been, to meld a group of teenagers, who individually had been told since they picked up a basketball in 1st grade that they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, into an unselfish unit. He does this year in and year out, not because he talks team…but because he thinks it.