Legendary NCAA men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino, had to be physically restrained by his assistant coaches as he walked off the court at halftime of a basketball game against rival North Carolina. A heckler was shouting at Pitino from the stands as the coach headed for the tunnel leading back to the locker rooms at intermission.
Rick Pitino is very displeased with a UNC fan pic.twitter.com/z4bYUuyMw6
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) February 23, 2017
The incident was captured from many angles by reporters and regular fans with cellphones and all of it was quickly posted online. Pitino appears to be walking off the court when he suddenly turns to what was likely an opposing fan taunting him from the stands. Pitino turns back and starts waking toward the heckler when a group of assistant coaches grab him and make sure he does not escalate the situation.
To his credit, Pitino spoke to the media about the incident after the game. During the press conference the coach expressed his opinion that he no longer thinks the University of North Carolina has the classiest fans in college basketball.
Pitino also explained at the press conference that the fan attempted to “get in his face” and said something he (Pitino) did not like. What surprised him was that it was not a student who heckled him this time, rather it was a grown adult.
“I take it from students all of the time. But from an adult? And then turns his back on me like he is a coward? So . . . ,” Pitino shrugged in video of the post game press conference posted by Kentucky.com.
He added a moment later, “And he [the adult fan] is a coward.” Though, Coach Pitino declined to say what exactly the fan said that set him off.
Coach Pitino’s 7th ranked Louisville squad ultimately lost to the #8 North Carolina Tar Heels, 74-63. Louisville now trails the Tar Heels by 2 games in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) standings.
Sometimes hecklers are removed from the building and even banned from future games, subject to trespass charges if they enter the arena again. However, that is not expected to happen in this case.
A North Carolina University athletic department spokesman told LawNewz on Thursday that the fan did in fact leave the arena after the incident, but he was only asked by the university to leave the area of the stands near the tunnel where Coach Pitino would come back out on the floor after half time. According to the spokesman, school officials identified a friend of the fan and informed the friend that the fan could return to his proper, ticketed seat, a good distance away from the tunnel entrance. The school has no plans to bar the fan from future events and the heckler is not a season ticket holder. The spokesman said UJNC’s goal was to simply deescalate this particular situation.
A spokesman for the University of Louisville Athletics Department said the incident is over as far as they are concerned and Coach Pitino said everything that will be said on the matter, and has no plans to address the matter further.
[image via screengrab]