Rick Pitino almost became Michigan’s head coach, until his wife called him a lamb


(Reuters)

ATLANTA — This isn’t so much a blog post as a Rick Pitino transcription, but during Sunday’s media availability, in a delicious bit of irony, he waxed nostalgic on almost becoming the Michigan head coach in the early 2000s. Something about parables and lambs and his wife and a staircase:

“It was kind of a funny story because I agreed to be the Michigan coach. I lived in Boston right on Com[monwealth] Avenue. We visited Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. My wife doesn’t like Las Vegas. We had young children at the time. She said, “Look, if we were all ‘let’s go,’ we have young kids. I just don’t want to go out west. I don’t want to go to a different time zone. I want to stay near our family.” It wasn’t Las Vegas as a town, it was the fact that it was west of the Mississippi. I’ll go to any job, but want to stay closer to home.

So I took the Michigan job. That morning I agreed. I forget what the name was, I think it was ‘Outright,’ which when I called the Michigan AD, he didn’t want me to use my real name to get through to him. My wife came up and, as I said, “I’m on the third floor, putting together all the things together with the Michigan contract.”

She had a book. There was an expression in the book that, “I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb.” My wife doesn’t swear. She didn’t want to go to Michigan because I’ve never visited there, I didn’t know anybody there. She wanted to go back to Kentucky where she saw the family so happy for eight years.

I said to her, “You don’t understand, the Kentucky coach can’t coach at Louisville. You’re just not getting it.”

She said, “It’s one game every year, and every other year you have to visit. What’s the big deal?”

I said, “It’s a big deal. We don’t want to do that. We’ll be miserable. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation.”

She said, “You know what, that line you’re always using, ‘I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb,’ you’re an effing lamb,” then walked downstairs.

I said, “Think about it. There’s half a million Kentucky fans in our town. It’s not like living in Lexington where if you wear red, you get shot. It doesn’t work that way.”

She said, “I don’t care, your family is going to be happy.” Now I have to call the AD. It’s 12:00. He had a thing between 12:00 and 1:30. I think it was squash or racquetball, where he can never be disturbed unless it’s a matter of life and death. His assistant said, “Is it a matter of life and death?”

I said, “No, it’s really, really important. It’s a matter of life and death, because I changed my mind.”
[The assistant said:] “I’m sorry, I can’t put him through to you, do you want his voice mail?”

So now I’m leaving this long voice mail. I rambled on saying it’s one of the greatest jobs in the world, but I have to go back home where my family grew up, my children grew up. I gave a long-winded story. Never till the NIT when I got a chance to speak to him in person about it. I went to Louisville. It was the right move not necessarily for me. But it was the right move for my family.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.

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Cindy Boren · April 7, 2013

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