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Archive for Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Excruciating pain’ sidelines Pitino

Louisville coach to step down temporarily

January 27, 2004

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— Louisville coach Rick Pitino is taking an indefinite leave of absence to seek treatment for an undetermined medical condition that left him in agony.

"I have been in excruciating pain the last three or four games," Pitino said Monday. "It's getting worse day by day."

Pitino, 51, said the pain in his left side was "urological related," and that he had been dealing with it for four to five months. He said doctors ruled out prostate cancer, but they had yet to determine what is causing Pitino pain.

Pitino said he first noticed the pain during a golf outing last summer. He said doctors first treated it as a muscle tear, but when it didn't heal, they began looking for another cause.

"It's gotten to the point where it's gotten a little too painful to lead the type of coaching lifestyle I lead," Pitino said. "We'll take it from there."

Louisville (15-1) is ranked fourth in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll and has won 15 consecutive games. The Cardinals play host Wednesday to Houston.

Pitino said he did not know how many games he would miss.

"It could be a couple of days, it could be a couple of weeks," he said.

The Cardinals beat Tennessee, 65-62, Sunday night. When Pitino arrived home early Monday morning, the discomfort was unbearable.

"I was doubled over in pain," Pitino said.

Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich said Pitino told him about the pain during the past few weeks.

"I know he's been struggling. Last night it probably came to a head," Jurich said. "He wants to get this addressed."

Assistant Kevin Willard, who last week pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, will coach the team in Pitino's absence. As a condition of his plea, Willard, the son of Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard, must undergo alcohol counseling.

Pitino said he disciplined Willard internally after his arrest. He had no reservations about turning the team over to Willard, who also worked as Pitino's assistant with the Boston Celtics.

"My confidence level in him is off the charts," Pitino said.

Pitino met with his players before practice Monday to discuss the situation.

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