Louisville’s Coach Pitino a Lesson in Humility

So, this March Madness season has been humbling for me. As a “self proclaimed” basketball expert, it pains me to say all my selections were eliminated from the tournament before the Final Four. I will finish in the lowest 10 percent of all participating. I bow to you all.

It’s been a great tournament filled with stories and thrills. I am fascinated by the coaches.

I like both coaches tonight. Louisville’s Rick Pitino is a Hall of Famer. He’s coached a long time among the more storied programs. His reputation as a coach of intense, defensive teams is high.

John Beilein is the opposite. He drove his high school teams around in buses as a journeyman coach. He honed his basketball coaching skills at small colleges that most of us haven’t heard of. He didn’t get into the major college ranks until he was over 50 years old. At 60 years old, it’s his first Final Four. I might even root for him except his team is Michigan. (I went to Michigan State. Michigan eliminated my other school, Florida, from the tournament.)

Both men are teachers. All successful coaches are. They recruit talent and character but they don’t win with the players they recruit. They win by accepting the responsibility of building a program where talented players are made stronger, more effective and molded into a team. They understand that even great players need coaching. They understand that they have to teach each player to find their potential. They push harder than most.

Being a Hall of Famer, Pitino has authored books about running a winning program. I’ve read two of them. If you like any of my notes on leadership and teaching, know that his thoughts on developing players individually inform the notes.

But, I like something he revealed this week.

In his early years, Pitino wasn’t well liked. His early success caused him to be confident in his abilities. Some called it arrogance.

But, despite being a Hall of Famer, his career has been up and down. He’s been fired from a dream job. Twice he tried the pro level as coach and didn’t achieve his desired goals. He has suffered widespread embarrassment as a result of his infidelity.

Through the years, he’s learned that success isn’t just about who you are and what you do. Your team will matter. Some luck will be involved. If you get too prideful, your comeuppance is around the corner.

This Hall of Famer seems to be understanding how special this success this year is. He’s showing some grace.

He was asked a reflective question this week. He said: “If I had one regret in life, it wouldn’t be what you think. It’s that I wasn’t more humble at an earlier age.”

I’ve learned life humbles you. You can attain it the hard way or adopt it because of what you’ve seen in others. But, humility has a way of finding us all.