At least with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to find a more revealing profile than the one Sports Illustrated did on Rick Pitino in 1996. The article did an excellent job of capturing the workaholic-genius side of Pitino that everyone talked about, but controversy stemmed over the article’s other angle: SI’s depiction of Pitino as a cold, absent husband. Full Court Pressure tells the story of a young(er) Rick Pitino, dragging his wife, Joanne, from state to state, job to job, against her will, always putting his own goals and happiness ahead of her and their family. At the time, people were outraged. Somehow, I’m not so sure that would be the case anymore.
“I can’t believe he’s doing this to me again,” she said. “We just got here! How can he ask me to pick up and leave again? I’ve been through this too many times. I can’t believe, after all I’ve been through this year, that he is asking me to do it again.”
Two days later, as she and her husband headed south in a limo toward Manhattan, he tried to tell her that this was the best move for her, with her family in New York and all, but she was not buying it. “You’re justifying it for yourself,” she said. The last time she had been at Madison Square Garden was the first day she had ever spent away from Daniel. Rick had taken her there for the Big East tournament, and while they were gone, the boy had died. Now she was back for a press conference to announce that her husband was coming to New York. She had the final word on that, though. Stepping from the limo, she saw the Garden and threw up on the sidewalk.
And now here it was, two years later, and the dream job in New York had soured, and now another dream job, the whole Roman Empire, was beckoning. The night before Newton showed up at their Bedford estate, Rick promised Joanne, “He will paint a picture of Kentucky second to none!” Instead, Newton’s pitch suggested the last days of Pompeii. Newton talked about the mess Kentucky was in—how the scandal and impending probation had scared off the best players and how the 1989-90 schedule was stacked with Louisville, Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas. “You’re not going to win but three or four games,” Newton said. “We have major problems.”