NCAA Tournament: Krzyzewski, Pitino finally get a rematch
Indianapolis • Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino are finally doing an encore.
For the first time since their teams played perhaps the greatest game in the history of the NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski and Pitino will meet in the NCAA tournament Sunday when top-seeded Louisville faces Duke. In the regional finals, no less.
Never mind that few of their current players were even born in 1992. Or that Pitino is no longer at Kentucky, having switched sides in the state's civil war after his brief trip to Boston and the NBA ended badly.
Krzyzewski and Pitino are forever linked by that one game in Philadelphia, immortalized by Christian Laettner's improbable shot.
"It's one of those moments in time that helped define our sport," Krzyzewski said Saturday. "When I've talked to Rick about it, we realize we were the lucky guys. We had different roles at that time, but we were both lucky to be there."
Said Pitino, "It was like being in Carnegie Hall and seeing the best musician or the best singer. Just sitting there in amazement of what they were doing out on the basketball court."
Krzyzewski and Pitino are two of the finest coaches of their generation, with five NCAA titles and 1,618 victories between them. Yet for all of their success, and for as good a friends as they are, Krzyzewski and Pitino rarely play each other.
When Louisville (32-5) and Duke (30-5) played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November Duke won it was the first time Krzyzewski and Pitino had played each other since '92. Sunday's game will be their third meeting ever.
"That's why we got them in the conference. Got to start doing this a little bit more," Krzyzewski joked, referring to Louisville's upcoming move to the ACC.
Michigan vs. Florida
Trey Burke was a 16-month-old toddler the last time Michigan was playing this late in the NCAA Tournament.
That regional final 19 years ago, a loss that ended the Fab Five era, was played in a building that no longer exists. Where Reunion Arena once stood near downtown Dallas is now a vacant lot about 20 minutes from Arlington, Texas, where the Wolverines finally get another chance to get back to the Final Four.
"It's definitely crazy," Burke said Saturday. "Just to get this program moving back in the right direction means a lot to us."
No. 4 seed Michigan (29-7) plays SEC regular-season champion and No. 3 seed Florida (29-7) for the South Regional title on the raised court at ultramodern Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
The Wolverines advanced largely because of Burke, the sophomore and Big Ten Player of the Year who scored 23 points all after halftime as they overcame a 14-point deficit against top seed Kansas. They forced overtime when Burke hit a long tying 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in regulation and won 87-85 in overtime.
"Yeah, I was surprised at how far I was," Burke admitted after seeing multiple replays of the shot that may just become known as the Fab 3.
Burke also had 10 assists, making him the first player to have 20 points and 10 assists in the NCAA round of 16 since 1987. The last to do it? A Providence player known as "Billy The Kid" aka Florida coach Billy Donovan, who will be on the opposite bench when his Gators play in their third consecutive regional final.
"It's funny, my wife says to me this morning, she asked me the same question, she said, 'Who was the player?,' " said Donovan, acknowledging he already knew and remembered his numbers (26 points, 10 assists vs. Alabama). "And I said 'Magic Johnson.' And she said, 'No, you.' I said I'm glad I'm comparing myself to Magic Johnson, that's great."
Florida has been to this point each of the last two years, but it hasn't been further since winning consecutive national championships under Donovan in 2006 and 2007.
• Michigan vs. Florida, 12:10 p.m., Ch. 2
• Louisville vs. Duke, 2:55 p.m., Ch. 2