Spoke to Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino today as part of some gathering for a story on Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.
But I took the chance to ask Pitino a few questions about TCU's inclusion into the Big East, which will happen in about one year.
Mac Engel: What was your reaction to the Big East's decision to add TCU?
Rick Pitino: We felt it was purely a football decision. One of my very worst experiences was traveling to TCU and getting killed there. We were in Conference USA (it was a 71-46 loss on Feb. 17, 2004). It was one of those nights that nothing went well for us and everything went right for them. It was a horrible experience. It really was one of the worst experiences of my coaching career.
It was a football decision, but what it does is enhance the basketball program at TCU for sure.
For all of us it adds value.
Texas is so fertile in recruiting; it's a big part of recruiting in the Big 10 and this should help for us as well. Some of us will feel more comfortable recruiting there now for sure.
ME: How does this add value for a Louisville, or a TCU?
RP: When I came to Louisville we were a top 10 program. In terms of value according to Forbes, there is only one basketball program among the top 50 money making athletic programs in the country that is basketball. The rest are all football. We're the one. That would not be true today if we were not in The Big East. The Big East makes Louisville a top five program. It was the one thing that Louisville lacked was that established conference. We really didn't have it in the Metro or Conference USA. Now we do.
TCU basketball could never, ever - or a South Florida or a DePaul or a wherever - be what it wants to be without being in a major conference. Now they are because they have that affiliation.
ME: UConn finished ninth in the Big East but won the NCAA tournament; can you describe how loaded and difficult this conference is in men's basketball?
RP: It's such a fine line here. We almost beat UConn three times, and we beat Butler at home and we got knocked out of the first round of the (NCAA) tournament. It's very easy to be as close to the top in this conference as it is to finish 10th or 11th. UConn could have been out of the tournament all together if their non-conference wasn't so good.
It's beyond being a bear. It's every night. For a guy like (TCU coach) Jimmy Christian - we went to the same high school, although at different times - he's taken a TCU job and he's building the thing and then all of a sudden he turns around and he's in the Big East. It's awesome from a recruiting standpoint, but, and he knows this, this is a very, very difficult basketball league.