Rick Pitino Might Have Been the Michigan Basketball Coach in 2001, But Michigan's then-AD Bill Martin Was Playing Squash

Rick Pitino told a great story on the radio about how close he came to taking the job as Michigan’s basketball coach in 2001. As everyone knows, Pitino opted for the Louisville job, instead. The Freep has transcribed Pitino’s interview with Sirius Radio. The bold is mine:

“The day that I committed to Louisville (in 2001), I signed an agreement to be the next head coach of Michigan, and I was fired up to be the coach at Michigan,” Pitino said during an interview on SiriusXM radio this week. The athletic director at the time, who’s no longer there, was playing squash, and my wife came up, she just didn’t want me to go to the West Coast, UNLV, and be away from the children. She agreed, ‘OK, let’s go to Michigan.'”

“I was living right on Thom Avenue in Boston, and she came up and threw her book at me, and said, ‘You know, you’re afraid to go tot Kentucky.’ It’s once every two years, what’s the big deal? They’re going to boo you, they’re going to yell things, for one game. What is the big deal? You don’t know anybody at Michigan, you’ve never been there, and now you’re going to pass on all your friends and your children, you’re older son, who’s settled down there, why would you do that?’

“‘You always say in this book you wrote that you’d rather live one day as a lion than 1,000 as a lamb.’ She said, ‘I didn’t know I was married to a curse word, and a lamb.’ She went down the stairs. She said, ‘I don’t understand any of this. The game of life is more important than the game of basketball. Your children are (in Kentucky), they grew up there. We need to go back to Louisville, and (athletic director) Tom Jurich is the guy you need to work for.

“I tried to call the AD at Michigan between 12 and 1. I had a false name I would give him, a fake name, and he would call me back. I couldn’t get a hold of him because he was playing squash. The secretary said he demands that he doesn’t get interrupted unless it’s an emergency, and if you want, you can leave a voicemail. I left a voicemail and went to Louisville, and I’m really happy I did.”

Well done, Bill Martin. The best part of the story? Martin was hired by Michigan in 2000. So less than a year after getting hired, he decided squash was more important than hiring a successful, popular basketball coach. Michigan ended up with Tommy Amaker, who recruited well, but flamed out spectacularly, never making the NCAA tournament during his six years in Ann Arbor. [Freep]

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