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Where does Rick Pitino rank?
Rick Pitino’s legacy is already secured.
He’s taken three different schools – Providence, Kentucky, Louisville – to the Final Four and will have the unique opportunity on Monday night to be the only coach in NCAA Division I history to win a title with two different schools when his Cardinals take on Michigan for college basketball's top prize.
The coach will be honored for his success on Monday when he will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The only other coach to take three schools to the Final Four is John Calipari (UMass, Memphis, Kentucky). Although UMass and Memphis’ trips to the Final Four were vacated by the NCAA, he’s still credited with accomplishing the feat.
So where does Pitino rank among all-time great coaches?
The late great John Wooden with his 10 national titles is considered No. 1. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, with four championships and 11 Final Four appearances is No. 2 by most accounts.
After that, Pitino supporters have every reason to believe the native New Yorker should be No. 3. Getting to the Final Four is tough enough, but to do it in three different places proves a lot of things. It proves Pitino’s style can win in any situation. It also proves Pitino can adapt if need be.
Dean Smith followers will obviously have something to say and so will Roy Williams’ people. Smith and Williams both won two national titles with North Carolina (more than Pitino).
Smith gets high marks because of the numerous players he sent to the NBA, including Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy. Williams’ track record is impressive considering he has been to seven Final Fours between the Tar Heels and his time with Kansas. So an argument can be made for both Smith and Williams.
There is also Jim Calhoun, who turned UConn into a basketball haven with three national titles and Adolph Rupp who won four championships with Kentucky. Bobby Knight is right there with three national titles at Indiana.
But Calhoun, Knight, Rupp and Smith had all of their success in one place while Pitino did it at three schools. That doesn't mean much to the people who believe winning titles is all that matters, but how would the aforementioned coaches have done at other schools?
Calhoun led Northeastern to five NCAA appearances, but never got past the second round.
Williams has a strong resume, but he has done it with two all-time great programs. Any decent coach can win at a big school, but to do it at a small catholic school that doesn’t have a big-time football program is impressive.
Pitino led Providence to the Final Four in 1987. Outside of a decent run in the 1990s with Rick Barnes and Pete Gillen and a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances with Tim Welsh, the Friars haven’t been much to write home about in recent years.
Where Pitino ranks all time is subject to the eye of the beholder, but the man's name can be mentioned in the same sentence with any of the all-time greats.