Thursday, April 03, 2008

Show Rick some love

If Bill Keightley could still be friends with him after former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino decided to coach Louisville, then you should give Coach Pitino a break.

John Clay shares some advice.
There has been much discussion the past couple of days about what Kentucky basketball could do to honor Bill Keightley's memory next basketball season.

Here's a suggestion:

Show Rick Pitino some love.[...]

Many disowned Ricky P. after that, but not Keightley. He remembered the good times and all Pitino had done for him personally. Keightley wasn't about to turn his back just because his friend was now coaching the archrival. That's why he was in Charlotte.

"You learn about the game of life when you do come back, because you learn about guys like Bill Keightley," said Pitino the next day. "He's never going to like Louisville, it's just not in his makeup. But he understands what friendships and people are all about. And I really appreciate that, because guys like Billy Keightley, they're your friends for life, and a lot of guys I thought were my friends back in those days haven't been my friends."

There's plenty of irony in all this. As ironic as it was that a U of L game turned out to be the last basketball game Keightley witnessed in person, it was also ironic that he died while on his way to attend the Cincinnati Reds baseball opener, during which that franchise was honoring a similar figure.

Joe Nuxhall, the longtime Reds player and broadcaster, as beloved to Reds fans as Keightley was to Wildcats fans, passed away last November. On Monday, the team unveiled a Nuxhall banner in Great American Ball Park, and each of the Reds wore a jersey with "Nuxhall" and the No. 41 on the back during pre-game introductions.

In his blog yesterday, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty wrote, "To honor Nux, I'm going to try a very simple thing that for whatever reason most of us find very hard to do: Be nice to someone. Go out of my way. A word, an action, a gesture. One a day, in memory of a guy who made being nice a way of life."

Not a bad thought.

It's been seven years now since Pitino took the Louisville job. Oh, he's whined a little since then about the treatment he's received from some UK fans. Pitino is Pitino, after all. But to my knowledge, he's never said anything derogatory or hurtful about his former employer.

On the flip side, for that national title and three Final Fours he brought to Lexington, Pitino has received little more than thundering boos.[...]

Leaving Bill Keightley's chair open at Rupp next season, or naming something after Kentucky's beloved equipment manager might be a fitting administrative tribute to Mr. Wildcat.

But if you want to do something personally to honor Keightley's memory, do as Bill did: Give Rick Pitino a break.

Show him a little love.
Thank you, John Clay.

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