Ok, we’re going to put our tin foil hat on here for a few minutes. It’s summer, and nobody is reading this anyway. But we’re really having trouble understanding the news today that Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard (and longtime Pitino buddy) will leave his successful, self-made program in Worcester, Mass. to become an assistant coach at Louisville.
Read that again: assistant coach at Louisville.
To open our conspiracy theory, let’s consider all the reasons that Willard shouldn’t have so much as considered this job, much less taken it.
- Willard’s been a head coach for the last 19 years, first at Western Kentucky, then at Pitt, and spending the last decade at Holy Cross.
- Holy Cross is Willard’s alma mater (Class of 1967), and he’s turned down other head coaching opportunities at higher profile places to stay there.
- Willard is arguably HC’s best coach ever. In ten seasons he’s taken the Crusaders to four NCAA Tournaments as Patriot League champions, won 20+ games five times, and has gone 192-117 (.621) in his career there. It’s safe to say that he could have held on to this job as long as he wanted it.
- It wouldn’t be unfathomable to believe that his salary, even at a Patriot League school, was higher than what Louisville can afford to pay its top assistant. At worst, we’d expect the two to be comparable.
So in the spirit of 9/11 was Saddam’s Bush’s Israel’s doing paranoids everywhere, we have to wonder what the hell is going on here?
Then we started thinking… a lot has gone on at Louisville in the past few months. To recap:
- After losing to underdog Michigan St. in the E8, stars Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are off to the NBA.
- Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, perplexingly left Louisville for another assistant job on Billy Donovan’s staff at Florida.
- The Karen Sypher situation.
- Rumors that Pitino was interested in the Sacramento Kings job.
Throw that in with the persistent rumors of a nameless medical condition dogging Pitino, and it wouldn’t be outside a reasonable realm of possibility for us to think that Ralph Willard has been promised something to become Pitino’s insurance policy. What if Pitino’s legal battles, familial problems and/or medical issues require him to take a leave of absence for a bit, similar to what Lute Olson did at Arizona? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a friend he’s known and trusted for 40+ years ready to move in at the helm if necessary? Or what if Pitino is once again feeling his well-documented propensity for wanderlust, and although he wasn’t interested in taking the Kings job this spring, he would be interested in other more high-profile NBA/college jobs should they open up? In that situation, he could essentially pull a Dean Smith/Bill Guthridge and leave the Louisville post to his top guy.
Or this could all be nonsense, chalked up to people sometimes doing irrational things, and we’re completely off base in our analysis. You’ll excuse us as we now go watch the Apollo 11 space landing in Arizona from the comfort of our alien-built spaceship in Area 51 while riffing some fresh beats with 2Pac and Biggie.