By Jeff Goodman
Rick Pitino was nominated for the Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon.
He's the only college basketball coach in history to have officially taken three programs to the Final Four, has a national title to his credit and has 618 career victories despite three different stints in the NBA.
"I'm extremely honored and grateful to be a finalist for the Hall of Fame," Pitino told CBSSports.com shortly after learning he was one of a dozen finalists.
I covered much of Pitino's forgettable tenure with the Boston Celtics, one that was a complete train wreck. The bottom line is that Pitino is one of the best college basketball coaches in my generation. However, he was far more suited to the college game than the pro ranks.
Just imagine how many wins he'd have in the college ranks right now if not for his eight years in the NBA. Probably somewhere in the vicinity of 825 and he's still not yet 60 years old.
The 59-year-old Pitino began his head coaching career in 1978 at Boston University, spent a couple years as an assistant with the Knicks before taking over a dismal Providence team. Two years later, the Friars were in the Final Four. Pitino then left for the head gig with the Knicks, where he was 90-74 in two seasons, before taking the job at Kentucky -- where he rebuilt a program that was on probation.
The Wildcats went to the Final Four in 1993 and won the national title in 1996 with a loaded group that featured Antoine Walker and Tony Delk.
Pitino took another shot in the NBA, this time asked to bring the storied Boston Celtics franchise back from the ruins. Pitino flopped in his three-plus years in Boston and made some ill-advised personnel decisions.
Pitino is in his 11th season at Louisville. He took the Cardinals to the Final Four in 2005 and has led the Cards to Elite Eight appearances in 2008 and 2009. Louisville is 21-7 this season and a lock to make its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
The other finalists: first-timers Reggie Miller, Bill Fitch and Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain. Previous finalists include Mo Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and Red Heads.
The Class of 2012 will be announced on Mon., April 2 in New Orleans prior to the NCAA national title game. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The enshrinement ceremony is Fri., Sept 7 in Springfield, Mass.