DENVER — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino called Thursday's 62-61 NCAA Tournament defeat to Morehead State "as tough a loss as I've had in coaching."
But it was what he said after making that statement that set off several follow-up questions from reporters.
After ranking it as one of his most difficult losses, Pitino said, "And I've been coaching a long time, after tonight maybe too long."
Then later, reflecting on U of L's surprising 25-10 season, Pitino added, "My window is closing in coaching. I said I could leave this year and be a happy man. And I could have with this team because they were just a sheer delight to coach the whole season. You always want to coach a team like this in your last years that you coach the game. Some coaches don't get that opportunity. I did. So I'm real proud of that. It's still a bitter ending to it."
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But when a reporter asked Pitino if he was thinking of walking away from the game, he quickly dispelled any talk of retirement.
"No, that's not what I said," he said. "I said 'the last years of coaching.' I mean, I'm 58. I'm not going to coach forever. I'm just saying you want to go out with a team like this when you do go out. Every year I take some time off and reflect. I said I could reflect and walk away and be very proud even though we lost in the first round."
Louisville is scheduled to return 11 of the 13 players who dressed on Thursday, including four starters. Forward Jared Swopshire, a starter two years ago who missed this season with a groin injury, is also due back, and Pitino welcomes one of the nation's top recruiting classes led by McDonald's All-Americans Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan.
Knowles finishes career on bench
Louisville senior guard and Clark County native Preston Knowles left the game with 8:51 remaining after spraining his left foot and did not return. Knowles, Louisville's leading scorer at 14.8 a game, finished with nine points on 3-for-10 shooting. The Cards led 48-44 when he went out of the game.
But Pitino didn't blame Knowles' absence for the loss.
"We had a chance to win it," he said. "I thought we played terrific without him. We took the lead, came back and made great plays."
Knowles was taken for X-rays after the game and was not available for interviews.
Faried: 'All ball'on last-second block
Morehead State senior forward Kenneth Faried didn't have a great game on the offensive end, scoring just 12 points on 4-for-17 shooting. But Faried pulled down 17 rebounds and made the defensive play of the game when he blocked Mike Marra's last-second three-point attempt that could have won it for Louisville.
Marra hit the ground after being blocked by Faried, and while the block looked clean, there was talk after the game about whether Faried made body contact with Marra.
Pitino said in the post-game news conference that he hadn't seen the replay, but Faried insisted the block was clean.
"It was all ball," he said. "Coach told me that we were going to pressure Siva and put him in a trap situation. If he passed it on whatever side, I had to be there to make that play. I just kept my hand straight up. When he shot the ball, I just smacked it down."
Morehead Coach Donnie Tyndall gave his two cents worth, smiling and declaring, "Absolutely all ball."
Marra didn't seem to have too many complaints about the lack of a foul call.
"It could have gone either way," Marra said. "He got some of the ball. I was trying to get him in the air and draw the foul, but the officials aren't going to call it in that situation."