“I think he need it, and I cut it for him,” Dieng said of Pitino. “He wanted to give it to someone.”
Roughly 1,700 miles away, in a dorm cafeteria at the University of Evansville in Indiana, sophomore Bryce Weiler had just finished listening to the game on television.
Weiler isn’t easily shocked. He’s close with Butler Coach Brad Stevens, and the Bulldogs advanced to the past two national title games. That was surprising. After Butler won its Elite Eight games to advance to the Final Four the past two years, Stevens cut down a piece of netting and gave it to Weiler. That was surprising, too. He carries those items around with him wherever he goes.
But Louisville’s win on Saturday? The Cardinals may have trailed by 11 with just more than eight minutes remaining, but Weiler said he never doubted Pitino would pull out a victory.
“I’ve listened to a lot of basketball, and with the two runs that Butler has made in the past two years, I don’t become surprised anymore,” Weiler said. “I was somewhat surprised that [Pitino] got a technical foul, but during the games when I was sitting at the Yum! Center, he kind of yells sometimes at the officials.
“But he’s definitely a different person off the floor. He’s one of the most wonderful and nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and he definitely does a lot more than what he even should do for me.”
A coaching connoisseur
Weiler was born four months early with an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity. He is blind, and that makes following his favorite sport somewhat challenging.
While attending the Indiana School for the Blind in Indianapolis during his high school years, Weiler took summer school classes at Evansville, where he met Purple Aces men’s basketball Coach Marty Simmons in 2009. Simmons invited Weiler, who is majoring in sports management, to sit on the team’s bench during home games, and Weiler gladly accepted the offer.
In November 2009, before Evansville’s game against Butler, Weiler struck up a conversation with Andrew Smith, who then was a freshman center on the Bulldogs’ roster. Smith encouraged Weiler to get in touch with Stevens and, to Weiler’s surprise, Stevens called him three weeks later.
What began with a phone call turned into a tour of Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler’s historic home court in Indianapolis. For the rest of the season, Weiler got to sit courtside next to Butler’s radio broadcast team during home games. He got to attend two Butler practices during the Bulldogs’ historic run to the Final Four in March 2010.