Thoughts on pools, Pitino and payment

By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 3, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Craig Degel


Well, I guess I owe my friend dinner.

You see, last summer I made a bet with a friend of mine who goes to the University of Kentucky. Knowing nothing about how good this year's UK basketball team was, I bet my friend that Georgetown would go farther in this season's NCAA Tournament.

Georgetown lost in the Elite Eight. Kentucky is the national champion. Oh well.

Oh, I had my reasons for taking the Hoyas. Really, I could have taken any team I was so disgusted with Kentucky.

For the last three years I had taken the Wildcats to go to the Final Four in an office pool.

In 1995, I had them in the championship game and they lost to North Carolina in the Elite Eight. In 1994, I had them in the Final Four and they were upset by Marquette in the Sweet 16. In 1993, I picked them in the championship game against. Thanks to Mic higan's Fab Five, I lost the pool that year by one game - Kentucky's loss to the Wolverines in the Final Four.

So, needless to say, I figured Kentucky would find some way to choke again.

I knew Georgetown had Allen Iverson and Othella Harrington so I took the Hoyas.

The summer passed into fall, and I was watching Dick Vitale expound on the virtues of Kentucky. I wasn't worried. Dickie V flip-flops so much during the year that I figured a week later he'd be a UMass fan.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Kentucky and coach Rick Pitino, but after counting on them so much throughout the years and being disappointed, I figured it was time for a change.

To think I almost took UCLA in the bet instead.

Well, like I said, I owe Charlie dinner.

To be honest with you, I'm actually kind of happy that I do. Why?

Well, despite the bet, I actually took Kentucky to win it all in this year's office pool (Heck, I even had UMass beating Georgetown in the Elite Eight). This championship has been long overdue for Pitino and his players.

Kentucky now has six national basketball titles to its credit - second only to UCLA's 11. Pitino has taken a lot of heat over the years. It was the same criticism given to golfer Corey Pavin before he won the U.S. Open. Pavin was arguably the best golfer to never win a major. Pitino was arguably the best coach to never win it all.

Not too long ago, a hostile crowd at an away game started chanting, "Two books, no rings," in honor of Pitino's two published works but lack of finger jewelry.

When you think about it, the last two championships have gone to coaches who live in the shadow of those who came before them. First it was Jim Harrick climbing out of the shadow of John Wooden at UCLA.

Now it's Pitino getting released from the shadow of the man for whom the building in which his team plays is named Adolph Rupp.

Before Michigan had a Fab Five, there was Kentucky's Fab Five that took back-to-back titles in 1948 and 1949. In 1951, Rupp had his third title.

Sure, I'm disappointed that the next time I see Charlie I'm going to lose my shirt on dinner.

But I couldn't be happier for Rick Pitino.

Craig Degel is assistant sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.