Opinion Island: Courting Controversy with Al Pitino

by Jose Bouquett

Welcome to the Opinion Island.

This is a place where I, Jose Bouquett (@josebouquett) will write out some random sports takes that I genuinely believe and hope with each inch of my body will happen. The first island we travel to has a whole heaping of Italian food, smells like hair gel and has a distinct Italian accent

UTSA has never had tangible success in any athletic program. And no, literally not one person will count the minimal success they had before the 2000s.

Their most successful seasons came in 2004, 2011 and 2019 when Steve Henson led the team to 17-15 overall record and a respectable 11-7 conference record that tied them for second place. They have two solid guards in Jhivvan Jackson and Keston Wallace that became one of the best shooting backcourts in the nation. But how far will coach Henson really lead this team.

>First round exit in the NCAA tournament? Maybe, just maybe a second-round exit? But I just can’t see Henson leading this team to the heights of a Conference USA championship or a deep cinderella run in the March Madness tournament.

Don’t get me wrong, Henson is a solid coach and I hope another larger program scoops him up and doubles his salary. UTSA doesn’t pay their coaches high salaries, they probably can’t because as you all may know, UTSA isn’t known for their athletics.

But there is a coach on the market that has won a national championship, five final four appearances, several regular season and tournament championships and he is desperate for a coaching job in the United States.

Yes, I am talking about slick Rick Pitino.

I know, I know, I know what you’re thinking.

“Rick Pitino is a slim ball, crime mob boss, four pump chump that paid his players and bought prostitutes for recruits.”

He is all of those things, but there is an FBI case that is all about several college programs paying players. I’ll admit it, I don’t really like Pitino. He kind of is a mob boss and he does sound like he has had people wacked before. But he has one of the best resumes in coaching history.

He just spent a year aboard in Greece winning a championship there and is reportedly is trying to return to the NBA.

Rick, let me break the news to you now, you are not getting a job in the NBA. No head coach will want you as an assistant and no franchise will want your baggage that you bring to every new location you coach at. On top of that, Pitino was a terrible with the Celtics. He didn’t finish over .500 in four seasons as head coach. He traded Chauncey Billups who turned out to be pretty freaking good. He sent the franchise into a tailspin and no NBA owner will want that in their franchise.

But, by god do I want him to come to UTSA

UTSA should not settle with being mediocre in basketball as they are in every other sport. Hiring Rick Pitino will bring a media firestorm to the university. It will be a tough look but after the initial 24 hours of blow back UTSA will be sitting pretty with an elite basketball coach and recruiter.

He’ll bring attention to the program and draw the eye of better recruits across the country. Given time, Pitino could make UTSA a basketball power in Conference USA. The program’s revenue will be boosted, and boosters will come out in bunches to back a winning program.

Now, I’m going to bring this back to reality real quick. Coach Henson just signed a contract extension that pays him 325,000 per year and runs through 2023-2024. Pitino isn’t signing for that cheap and as previously stated Henson is a good coach. I don’t believe that UTSA would have the balls to actually hire Pitino given his history and general slimy-ness.

But I am tired of .500 seasons. Henson is 51-49 in his career at UTSA, he hasn’t taken UTSA to the semi-finals of any tournaments. I believe UTSA deserves better and can be better with a man that has been there and done it before. It’s a marriage made in heaven. UTSA can open the door for Pitino to come back into the coaching fold and UTSA gets a discount for a hall of fame coach.

Weather the storm UTSA, hire Pitino, take a chance, become nationally relevant and boost the program to heights it has never been too.

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