On the rebound: 2013 Louisville Cardinals

Another look back at the 2013 NCAA basketball final. I still have confetti I collected at the end of the game in the Georgia Dome. Can’t wait for next season, but there are high hopes for the football team this year, already off to a 4-0 start. (Unfortunately, didn’t get any confetti at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans last January.)

Rick Pitino and the guys go to Washington

Is there a better way to cap off a great year for the University of Louisville sports program?

The Cardinals basketball team meets the president. They have a ceremony where politicians from both sides of the aisle are actually civil to one another. Obama gives a pretty good recap of the NCAA tournament, and Rick Pitino gives a speech praising the city and school he’s adopted.

All that’s missing?

The first lady …

And Russ Smith. Where is he anyway? (From NBC Sports):

Russdiculous is going international.

A preseason All-American and the leading scorer for the reigning national champs, Russ Smith has been named a member of the East Coast All-Stars, a 12-man team that left for Estonia to play in a tournament called the Four Nations Cup. …

He also won’t be in attendance as the Cardinals make a trip to the White House on Tuesday, which is actually a national tragedy: We won’t get a chance to see what happens when Russ Smith meets President Obama.

That would be a sight. Well, there’s always next year.

 

Hail to the chief and the Cards

This just in from Washington, D.C.:

Denny Crum and the University of Louisville basketball team met Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Ronald Reagan in 1986 following national championship runs.

Rick Pitino and this year’s Cardinals will do the same with President Barack Obama at 2:05 p.m. July 23.

The White House confirmed U of L’s visit, a university spokesperson announced Tuesday, and the Cardinals will be honored at the Rose Garden.

“It is truly one of the unique experiences in a young man’s life to go to the White House and meet the President of the United States,” the hall of fame coach Pitino said in a statement. “It’s not only a great honor, but our team will always remember that they got a chance to visit the White House, understand the logistics of how everything works and then meeting the President.”

Let’s see what this year’s Cardinals did the last time they met a president:

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This can be very inspirational, or a disaster. I’m 99 percent sure it will be dignified. But with Russ Smith in the room, you never know what’s going to happen. Just remember, here’s what he did to his coach, Rick Pitino, on national TV:

David Stern makes me laugh

The NBA draft was funny.

I’ve never watched it before, but stuck with it to see where Gorgui Dieng of Louisville would go in the first round (picked by Utah, traded to Minnesota). That’s actually pretty good, because Rick Pitino‘s kid is now the head coach at the University of Minnesota, so Gorgui will at least have some “family” in the area. That’s confirmed by this tweet:

gorguiBut NBA Commissioner David Stern getting booed every time he walked out to announce the next pick was a riot. He egged the crowd on, saying things like “I can’t hear you.” Then he came out with these words of wisdom:

“We’ve had to explain to our international audience that the boo is an American sign of respect.”

I guess if I followed the NBA, I’d have known this was an inside joke. Stern is retiring after 30 years, and as he made his last pick, he got a standing ovation of sincere cheers by the crowd. And then, when he introduced his successor, the crowd booed the new guy.

Rick Pitino gets his national championship tattoo

So, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said he would get a tattoo if the Cardinals won the national championship.

The Cards won. He got the tattoo:

Here’s the post-tattoo interview from the parlor on Bardstown Road in Louisville.

A Russdiculous decision

Louisville Cardinals basketball fans are elated because guard Russ Smith is going to return for his senior year.

Anyone who’s watched Russ knows he can do some amazing things with the basketball. (Look at all the games he led the team in points.) But we also know he can do some amazingly stupid things with the basketball. (Look at the five overtime loss against Notre Dame.) Russ seriously thought about entering the NBA draft, and I’m sure the general managers were looking at the stupid things.

I was at the national championship against Michigan in Atlanta game and screamed “No, Russ!” when Louisville was up by eight with 2:36 left and a fresh 35-second shot clock, and Russ put up a bad shot from beyond the three-point line. All he had to do was hold onto the ball, let the clock run down and set up a play for a better shot. I just kept thinking, “If Louisville loses, this is where it happened.”

Plus, I suspect he also didn’t want to leave Louisville after the disappointing game he had in the national championship. Only nine points, and lots of bad shots, including the one above.

The extra year under Coach Rick Pitino should add a lot more maturity to Russ’s game. And look at the team they’ll have. Three starters returning: Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshire. The Final Four MVP Luke Hancock is back. Kevin Ware’s leg will be healed. Two departing starters, but Montrezl Harrell is back at forward or center, and a really good recruiting class is coming up.

And if things go right, Russ gets into his third Final Four, and has a chance to defend the national championship. Put it all together, and that makes him a definite first round draft choice in 2014.

In the meantime, let’s wallow in the 2013 victory, with Dick Vitale and the ESPN America feed out of the U.K.