Vaught's Views: Louisville fans must be giddy

January 23, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

For University of Louisville fans, this has been a banner week - and it should get better Sunday when Rick Pitino's basketball team wins at Tennessee a lot easier than Kentucky did Tuesday.

First, the Cardinals got the state's top football recruit, Trinity quarterback Brian Brohm. He picked the Cardinals over Tennessee, Notre Dame and Kentucky.

Forget all the scuttlebutt about the potential problems the Cards will have because they also signed highly-touted Male quarterback Michael Bush a year ago and have Stefan LeFors returning at quarterback after leading the team to a bowl game.

A team cannot have too many talented quarterbacks. Brohm probably would have started from day one at Tennessee and Kentucky. That's not likely to happen at Louisville, but he will play as a true freshmen. Don't doubt that for a minute.


Already many Kentucky fans are hoping a disgruntled Bush might see himself fitting perfectly into Ron Hudson's UK offense because Bush is equally good at throwing and running. However, Bush can also help a team win a lot of other ways - receiver and running back come to mind immediately.

But there's no guarantee Brohm will beat out LeFors or Bush. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino obviously knew landing Brohm might tweak Bush. Look for him to find a way to keep both Bush and Brohm happy - winning helps that more than anything - and there's no way the Cards could not recruit Brohm, the nation's top-rated quarterback by some recruiting analysts.

But what has to have Louisville fans even more giddy is the play of Pitino's team. The Cardinals have now won 14 straight games since a season-opening loss. Not only did they beat Florida and Kentucky when both were rated No. 1, but they also demolished previously unbeaten Cincinnati 93-66 Wednesday.

You have to love the vintage quotes Pitino had after the big win.

"If you had been with me the first six weeks of practice, I thought I'd overscheduled. We got together and said, 'We're not very good. How do we get better?'" Pitino said.

The same way Pitino's teams always get better. They run more and shoot better. They play aggressive defense and unselfish offense. It's not complicated.

This, though, had to be my favorite postgame quote from Pitino.

"We've got really good personnel, but if you break them down one by one you wouldn't be impressed. They are talented in their own right, but they become so much better together," Pitino said.

Does that sound like a certain team he had early in his Kentucky coaching career that almost upset eventual national champion Duke in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight?

Pitino is the master of the understatement. Every team he faces has potential lottery picks and is among the nation's best teams. He's always prodding his players to get better, but he also has a knack of lavishing just enough praise on them to make them want to do even more.

After Wednesday's win, he said guard Taquan Dean was the "toughest" player he's ever had for playing with a groin injury and not complaining. My guess is that if one searched the archives, Pitino has used that phrase to describe a lot of players he's had. But that's Pitino and why his teams almost always improve. He knows just what to say and when.

Pitino continues to say this is not a Final Four team, that the Cardinals are too young to reach that lofty status. Don't believe him. Remember, he said the same thing about his 1992 UK team that should have beaten Duke.

Maybe the Cards' chances of making the Final Four are not as good as the chances of signing Brohm were, but it would be a big mistake to think Pitino's team couldn't get there - and make Louisville fans even giddier than they are now.

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