NCAA Tournament

Wichita State stands in way of a perfect Pitino week

Updated: 2013-05-01T22:53:23Z

By RICK PLUMLEE

The Wichita Eagle

— Rick Pitino is going for the trifecta plus one within the span of six days.

The Louisville coach already crossed the finish line in first place earlier this week when his son Richard, 30, became the Big Ten’s youngest basketball coach when he was hired by Minnesota.

Pitino is also chasing a national championship with his top-seeded Cardinals meeting Wichita State in Saturday’s national semifinal in the Georgia Dome.

He’s the partial owner of a race horse named Goldencents, which has been installed as a 6-1 pick to win Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby – a prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

And Monday, Pitino is the odds-on favorite to be named the next college coach to the Naismith Memorial Basketball of Fame. That’s also the night of the national title game.

“I don’t think those four things can happen,” Pitino said with a laugh Thursday. “I would love to see the national championship happen.”

But he sees trouble from the ninth-seeded Shockers.

“Without any exaggeration,” Pitino said, “they’re the best team we will have faced this year at the defensive end.

“They are Marquette on steroids in terms of the way they play defense.”

In beating Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State on way to the Final Four, the Shockers “took those teams completely out of what they do. We can’t allow that and have a chance to win.”

Pitino is in his seventh Final Four, tying him with Roy Williams at fourth for the most trips. He was the first coach to take three different schools to the Final Four, won a national title with Kentucky in 1996 and has a career record of 662-239.

So his resume to make the Hall of Fame is loaded.

After owning race horses for 25 years, Pitino’s best chance at putting a horse in the most prestigious race rests with Goldencents, which ranks 10th in the Kentucky Derby points standings – the new system that determines the 20-horse field.

Pitino is man of many pursuits.

He’s also a proud papa.

Richard Pitino spent two stints as an assistant coach at Louisville under his dad, including last year’s Final Four run, before going to Florida International this season for his first head coaching job.

“The sun rises when your children wake up in the morning,” Rick Pitino said.

Florida coach Billy Donovan, who also worked under Pitino, recommended that Minnesota hire Richard.

“But I seconded it,” Pitino said.

He was convinced his son was ready after taking over a team that was in disarray, brought in eight new players, won 18 games and came close to making the NCAA Tournament.

“Richard is more than ready,” Pitino said. “I drove him harder than I drove Billy. I feel bad I drove him that hard, and now I’m happy I did.

“It’s been a great week for our family.”

So far.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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