Rick Pitino's contract extension all but cements his Louisville legacy

Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE

Rick Pitino has traveled the country and beyond coaching basketball. After signing a five-year contract extension on Tuesday, he's all but bound himself to Louisville Cardinal hoops.

On Tuesday, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich announced that head basketball coach Rick Pitino agreed to a contract extension that keeps him manning the Cardinal sidelines until 2022.

After hinting he may retire following the 2016 season, Pitino will instead coach for at least six more years, allowing him to re-assess his desire to continue coaching at the age of 70.

As a result, Pitino has all but cemented his legacy and bound himself to the Cardinal basketball program for all of eternity.

A college basketball coach in the more traditional sense - look to win while turning teen aged boys into grown men by preparing them for the next phase of life, regardless of whether or not it's on an NBA roster - Pitino's desire to coach into the next decade at Louisville confirms how he wants to be remembered.

"I was born a New Yorker, I want to die a Kentuckian."

And that's exactly what's going to happen.

You see, you may not be old enough to understand or even remember, but Rick Pitino was a big deal in many other places before moving his life to Louisville, Kentucky.

The seeds for coaching success were planted at Hawaii and Boston University.

Then there was the brilliant and unexpected run to the 1987 Final Four at Providence, followed by the restoration of one of the game's most prestigious programs in Kentucky, while his his next career move resulted the unforgettably forgettable tenure with the Boston Celtics.

There was even a stint as assistant coach of the New York Knicks.

Yes, that's right, Rick Pitino has been around. He knows where to grab a bite in a lot of places; not just Fourth Street.

But assuming Pitino coaches as long as his new contract allows him to, it will certainly be Cardinal red (or a snow white suit) that becomes the position we call up in our minds first.

Pitino has coached 843 games as a collegiate coach. Forty-two percent of those games has come as coach of the Cardinals, with 43 percent of his victories coming as U of L's head coach.

Assuming Pitino coaches an average of 33 games a season for the next ten seasons, that means he will end up tallying up to 1000 games as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, 60 percent of his entire college coaching career and easily the longest tenure at any school

The point: his time spent as the face of Big Blue Nation is far from the equivalent of a healthy serving of Pegasus Pie. When you think of Pitino, you're going to think of Louisville, and everything else will become an afterthought.

Ten years ago, when Pitino was wavering between Michigan and Louisville, the deal with him was that he was a tremendous coach who could have had the world had he stayed in Lexington, only to fall back to reality in Boston. He ticked off a loud fan base and re-ignited an in-state rivalry, sharply shifting how we perceive him.

But now, assuming Pitino honors his contract in full, his legacy will be simple: a polarizing figure who ranks as the second winningest head coach in Louisville Cardinal basketball history, and one of the game's all time greats.

Love him or hate him, it should be reassuring for college basketball fans to know that there's plenty more left in the tank of this fascinating Sicilian.

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