UK Men's Basketball

Pitino could benefit from Dungy, too

When Michael Vick, Andy Reid and Tony Dungy were sitting at the podium Friday morning discussing Vick's signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, all I could think about was Rick Pitino.

OK, OK, since last Tuesday night, I've done little except talk about the current Louisville basketball coach and the news of his stunning restaurant sexcapade.

What does that tabloid fodder have to do with Michael Vick, you ask?

It has much to do with the former disgraced NFL quarterback and the former NFL coach who is mentoring him back into the public's good graces.

I'm rooting for Vick. His dog-fighting days were reprehensible. But he was tried, convicted and did his time. He's expressed his regret, paid his debt to society. That's the way it works in this country. And that's the way it should work.

Because Vick is a talented athlete, he's getting a second chance in a highly public arena. He'll help the Eagles, not necessarily as a quarterback, but in the Wildcat formation and as an occasional receiver and possibly as a dual-quarterback lining up in the same backfield as Donovan McNabb.

Because Rick Pitino is a talented basketball coach, he is getting a second chance, too.

Unlike Vick, Pitino did nothing illegal, yet his actions were certainly disappointing and definitely embarrassing. Yet Tom Jurich said Thursday that he was "a million percent" behind his coach. It took longer for school president James Ramsey to climb on board — school presidents are politicians, you know; better to make sure which way the wind is blowing — but the U of L chief firmly stated Pitino was his man.

But if Pitino is to overcome the public ridicule, he must show more humility than he did in that excessively weak early-evening Wednesday apology.

The coach's obtuse invoking of 9/11, apparently as if that somehow explained away his sins, was particularly shameless. He kept mentioning that the act was "six years ago." And he had the temerity to mention the Elite Eight success of last year's Louisville team, a more-than-gentle reminder that, "Hey, I'm a good coach, remember?"

That's always been the thing about Pitino. Even for the fans who afforded him such raucous adulation during his glory days at Kentucky, Pitino was often a bit hard to take.

That massive ego. (The post-game shows in which Pitino always sounded like he knew what was going to happen before it happened.) That constant calculation. (Every comment seemed to have a hidden agenda.) Those fits of pique. (Remember that cancellation of the team's honors ceremony when UK lost to South Carolina in the 1997 season finale.)

More than anything, Pitino now needs to show a bit of humility and sincerity.

He needs to show the same traits we see from Tony Dungy every day.

To me, Dungy has always been the one coach worth the adulation. He proved you didn't need an outsized ego. He proved you didn't need to scream and yell. He proved you can be a man of strong religious faith and not hit people over the head with it.

Dungy proved you could do all that and win, too.

It speaks volumes that Dungy didn't judge Michael Vick for his heinous crimes but chose to help the disgraced star find the right way to convince us he's worthy of forgiveness.

Hopefully, Rick Pitino will give us reason to do the same.