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New Providence Coach Faces a Big Challenge

United Press International

Rick Pitino loves a challenge and he certainly has one at Providence College.

As rookie coach of the Friars, Pitino inherits a team that posted a school-record 20 losses and finished last in the Big East Conference at 3-13.

Graduation has stripped the frontline of Ray Knight, Keith Lomax and Brian Waller. And the incoming freshmen offer no saviors.

“It’s going to take some time to bring in bigger and stronger basketball players and I don’t look for anything this year other than building intensity,” Pitino said. “My main goal is to become one of the more intense programs in the Big East, if not the country.”

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Darryl Wright, a 6-6 New Yorker, is the top recruit to join the remainders of Joe Mullaney’s last team. Though the talent is thin, the Friars’ style will assuredly be the pressing, running game used by Pitino’s successful Boston University teams.

“Our biggest problem is not lack of size or lack of quickness but lack of bench,” Pitino said. “The frontcourt is very limited as far as numbers go. It will take three or four years before we’re competitive with the rest of the Big East.”

Mullaney knows it will be frustrating for Pitino.

“Rick has a tough year ahead,” he said. “We have some good kids but not enough overall talent. With the effort he’s putting in, I think a couple of years down the road we might see some better players.”

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Pitino, 33, is entering his 12th year of coaching. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts in 1974, he went to Hawaii as a graduate assistant. He advanced to full-time aide and eventually interim head coach.

Pitino spent two years in Syracuse, where he learned something of recruiting. He then moved on to Boston U. where, during his five years, he led the Terriers to a 91-51 record. He twice was named New England Coach of the Year and took his team to the NCAA and NIT tournaments.

Pitino, a native New Yorker, was invited to come home by Knicks coach Hubie Brown.

“I grew up 10 blocks from the Garden,” he said. “To be a coach with the Knickerbockers was more than a dream come true.”

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But the dream was accompanied by hard work from the demanding Brown.

“After every game I had to take the film and break it down for three-and-a-half hours (seeing what plays were effective or needed revision),” he said. “Then, get the scouting report (on the next opponent) from the other assistant and prepare it for each player, so you had 15 reports to do at seven or eight pages length.


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