In the wake of Louisville’s meltdown against Morehead State, the women’s team’s stunning upset of #5 Xavier on the Lady Musketeers’ home court, and Bellarmine’s continuing quest for a Division II title, the question has to be asked.
Who is the best basketball coach in Louisville?
The more appropriate process might be to forget the absolutes, you know, stats, reputation, etc — that’s always going to be subject for argument — but to apply a cost/ benefit analysis.
Under that microscope, there’s a clear 3d place finisher.
I don’t know if The Rick’s salary is $2 mill/ year, or closer to $3 mill/ year. But I know this it’s way more than either Davenport or Walz is making. A lot more per victory. A lot more per post-season success exceeding expectation.
Rick Pitino did a really fine job coaching for the most part this season. The fact that he was forced to do so much with so little can be blamed somewhat on the injuries. But more so on his less than stellar recruiting. It’s part of the deal, a big part.
That this year’s team failed to show up for its inaugural — and only — NCAA game, the same as last year’s team failed to show up for its inaugural — and only — NCAA game, is on him.
The juxtaposition with his U of L counterpart, women’s coach Jeff Walz, is an exclamation point to his squad’s failures the last two seasons.
Pitino has astutely observed that much of the Big East’s tournament underperformance this season is due to the lack of superstars in the conference.
Jeff Walz knows that. He rode an Angel to the national championship game. Last season his team didn’t even make the Dance. So, he did what needed to be done. He went out and got a superstar, Shoni Schimmel.
And he let her play. Anybody the least familiar with this year’s Lady Cards knows that Schimmel often plays out of control, attempts absurd passes, dribbles too much and takes some egregiously ill-advised shots. Hell, she did it last night against Xavier. She’s also a transcendent player, like Larry Bird, somebody who makes her teammaters better and her opponents quake.
And Walz knows how to coach. Instead of yanking Schimmel for those mistakes, he let her play. He understands that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Last night, The Show, as her teammates dub her, took two insane threes when the Cards were falling behind after tying the tilt midway through the final half.
Walz stayed the course. Then Schimmel hoisted her team on her back and simply took over the game. Xavier cracked. The Cards move on.
Yet again today against Midwestern State in the Round of 8, Scotty Davenport’s Knights were outquicked, outjumped, outathleticized. Yet they never got out of their offense. Their incredible defense stiffened at crunch time. Bellarmine moves on.
So, if I’m rating the three local coaches today, based on what they’re doing for me now, what they’ve done during their tenure before this season, what they’re likely to do in the future, here’s my list:
1. (Tie) Scott Davenport, Bellarmine and Jeff Walz (Louisville Women)
3) Rick Pitino (Louisville Men)
– Seedy K