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NCAA Basketball Louisville Cardinals

Louisville Cardinals: 2012 Billy Minardi Classic Truly a Pitino Family Affair

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Sports have a way to bring people together, to help them escape painful thoughts, and to help honor loved ones.  The nation has recently been dealing with the tragedy of the Sandy Hook shooting. Stories are beginning to pour in on how athletic organizations are honoring the victims.

In 2001, there was another tragedy that dealt the nation a hard blow. It also changed the Pitino family’s lives .

Tonight, the 11th annual Billy Minardi Classic will be held. The event is named in memory of Louisville Cardinals coach Rick Pitino’s brother-in-law, Billy Minardi, who was murdered in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

This event will not only serve to honor Pitino’s brother-in-law. It will also be the first meeting for Richard Pitino, head coach of Florida International Panthers, and his father.

“Billy was very close with Richard and vice versa,” Rick Pitino said Tuesday to ESPN, when asked his thoughts on what the night will mean to the family. “It’s going to mean a great deal to him, seeing his uncle’s picture around. Our family right now is more apprehensive and nervous than Richard and me. We know it’s a basketball game. We know what it’s all about.”

The game will be a mismatch. Louisville is a Top-25 program, and Florida International has been picked to finish last in its division of the Sun Belt. But that’s not very important.

Who cares what the outcome will be. The game has created an opportunity for the family to unite, to share memories, and to create new ones.

Patosha Jeffery is the Memphis Tigers Featured Columnist at Rant Sports. Follow her on Twitter: @patoshajeffery and add her Google + to your circles.