On Saturday, Goldencents, a horse that Pitino co-owns, won the Santa Anita Derby, a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby.
“I was looking around for lightning,” Pitino joked. “This was such a special moment.”
Pitino, the only coach to take three schools to the Final Four, has won 661 games in 28 seasons as a college coach and his 47-16 record in the NCAA tournament is the third-highest winning percentage among active coaches.
He also had two stints in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
When he was a young assistant with the Knicks from 1983-85, Pitino forged a relationship with King, one of the most feared scorers in his playing days.
“I remember Rick as a very young coach, a coach starting his career, a coach who knew the game,” said King, who averaged 22.0 points in his 15-year NBA career, including averaging 34.8 points in the 1984 NBA playoffs. “I remember Rick came with me to the NBA All-Star game and we were flying from Denver to San Antonio. We talked a lot about that even though we had some injuries we had to get off to a good start.
“That first game in San Antonio I scored 50 points. The next day in Dallas I had a milk shake and a turkey sandwich and scored 50 points again. I guess you can say this is the culmination of my life in basketball.”
Payton was known as “The Glove” for his defensive prowess in his years with the Seattle SuperSonics. He was a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“I was an offensive-minded guy when I went to Oregon State and coach Ralph Miller pulled me to the side and said ‘You’ll be one of the greatest defensive point guards ever and I said to myself ‘Yeah right. I’m shooting every time I get the ball.’ I got really good at it and started liking it and took it from there,” Payton said.