With the NCAA Men’s Final Four drawing to a close and Coach Rick Pitino so very close to making history, I remembered something that happened over 15 years ago that remains one of my fondest memories.

I went to Mardi Gras in 1994 with my sister and her then-boyfriend, now-husband.  We made the trek up to Baton Rouge for the UK-LSU men’s basketball game while on this trip.  I am a UK grad as is my brother-in-law.  There were just a handful of UK fans there –after all, it was a Tuesday in Louisiana in February, 1994.

UK was down 31 pts with just over 15 minutes to play and ended up winning the game.  A remarkable and unparalleled accomplishment in the annals of college basketball.

 

After the game we just migrated down to the floor and about a dozen of us UK fans just stood in a semi-circle while Cawood did his radio show with Coach.  It was just like sitting in their living room because while it was being broadcast to thousands, it felt quite intimate. 

 

The team of course went into the locker-room after the horn sounded but immediately came back out and whooped it up with us.  We got them to sign ticket stubs (see the photo) and I distinctly remember Travis Ford telling me, “hang on to this ticket because this will go down in history as the greatest comeback in the history of college basketball”.  Smart guy then, smart guy now.

 

But wait, there’s more.

 

A couple of years later, the staffing company I worked for in Florida bought tickets and threw in some sponsor money for some business function in Tampa that included Rick Pitino as keynote speaker.  Because my company was a sponsor, my co-workers and I got to queue up in a private reception line to shake hands and say hi to Coach.  Since it was the staffing industry, 98% of the conference attendees were females like me and they were all murmuring “I don’t know who that guy is but he is certainly cute so I guess I will shake his hand”.

 

Well I knew who he was.

 

I got in line, must have been 200-300 women ahead of me, and shuffled forward as each woman shook his hand and moved on.  Coach was cordial and gracious but truly had a kind of glazed look after about the 75th person who had no idea who or what he was. 

 

So when my turn came, I stepped up, he extended his hand and with that same glazed look he said, “thanks for coming” and I just said, “Coach I was at that LSU game”.

 

In an instant, everything changed.  We were best friends for the next 15 minutes.  He got so animated and so did I talking just like two people who LOVE sports tend to do when they find common ground.  The room hushed like an EF Hutton commercial and all those people were staring trying to figure out who…what…why…to no avail.

 

Anyway, all the March Madness on TV right now reminded me that I have a truly treasured and special memory.  Not just the game which was incredible but also meeting Coach Pitino a couple of years later and actually connecting and chatting about it.

 

Just really cool.

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