My Rick Pitino Story – The New York Times

My Rick Pitino Story - The New York Times

Sam didn’t have Mr. Pitino’s phone number, but had given the Sports desk the address of Mr. Pitino’s home in Mount Kisco, N.Y., in the upper reaches of the Westchester County suburbs. Neither of us had a vehicle, so Bill wrote out a transportation slip, which allowed us to use one of the cars The Times then kept for reporters in the parking lot next door.

Before we left, Bill told us to try and get a quote from Mr. Pitino. Even if he wasn’t home, the reader would still know that The Times had tried to contact him.

But before I had the chance to speak a word, Mr. Pitino grabbed our Times IDs, which the two of us, each in his early 20s, were holding up to his face F.B.I.-style. We tried our best to ease the tension, telling him our readers wanted to know if he was really leaving New York. But we could see his anger rise. He began writing down our names on a piece of paper, asking, “Who sent you here? Do you know my wife and children are asleep inside!”

“Sorry, Rick, but we couldn’t find your number,” I said.

Then he told us to leave.

I remained with The Times’s Sports department for the next 27 years and thoroughly enjoyed my time, with nary another nightmare. Instead, my reporting assignments tended to collide with many of my boyhood dreams. I met Joe Frazier, and once piloted a blimp over Yankee and Shea Stadiums. I interviewed Wayne Gretzky and Hank Aaron. I relived the New York Jets’ most glorious moment — winning Super Bowl III — with Joe Namath.

Mr. Pitino moved around. He won a national championship during his eight-year tenure with Kentucky, and after less than four seasons back in the N.B.A. with the Boston Celtics, returned once again to his first love, this time at the University of Louisville. He won his second national championship in 2013 (which the university later had to forfeit after a scandal involving recruits), and soon after, I moved on to Society news, to write the Vows column.

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