“I’m thinking of suspending a player,” Pitino joked.
Today Pitino announced that reserve guard Kevin Ware had been suspended indefinitely for unspecified reasons. Later the Cardinals (17-4, 5-3) held off Big East Conference foe the Pittsburgh Panthers (17-5, 5-4), 64-61 to end a three-game losing streak.
Coincident? Probably, but if Pitino suspended a player to get his struggling team’s attention, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Pitino, a paid motivational speaker as well as coach, always seems to know just the right buttons to push to lift his team out of funk. And lately things had gotten real funky for the Cardinals.
Two weeks ago the Cardinals ascended to No. 1 in the polls after winning 10 straight. Then, seemingly uneasy as front runners, they started to tank. Their shooting percentage plummeted and faster than they rose to the top, they began a clumsy descent.
Meanwhile the rhetoric coming from Pitino seemed to escalate with each loss. A master motivator, Pitino called the game against Pitt a must-win.
“We have to get this win. It’s a must game for us,” Pitino said. “Because four (in a row), now you’re on the verge of getting a sub-.500 record in the league, and you don’t want to mess with that.”
Flirting with .500 seems unthinkable for a team picked by many to win it all. Perhaps Pitino’s accolade-lavished players couldn’t handle being the target on their backs. Maybe Pitino’s passionate pleas are better suited for rallying troops instead of fending them off.
Prior to the Georgetown game, Pitino compared his squad to a baseball team with great pitchers and with a bunch of “average hitters.” You wonder, how did those “average hitters” process that comment? Was that Pitino’s way of letting his players know how unimpressed he was with their shooting?
Whenever Pitino decides to specify those unspecified reasons he suspended Ware, motivating the team is unlikely to come up.
It doesn’t have to. His players got the message.
Merlisa blogs about Big East Conference Basketball. Follow her own Twitter: @merlisa