Coach says it's 'nothing of a serious nature'

Updated: January 30, 2004, 5:41 PM ET
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rick Pitino wouldn't say what caused him to take a two-day medical leave, but the Louisville coach said Friday that there was nothing seriously wrong with him.

"There is a diagnosis to it all, but it's really not worth going into," Pitino said. "All I can say is this will not take away from me coaching Louisville for another eight or 10 years. I've got a clean bill of health."

The 51-year-old Pitino rejoined his team Thursday after two days of tests at the Cleveland Clinic probed the cause of a "urological-related" pain that has persisted in his left side for months. Pitino announced Tuesday that the source of the pain was not cancer-related or life-threatening.

"I know what I don't have, but I had to have answers," Pitino said of his visit to the clinic.

But Pitino said he was still feeling discomfort.

"I have a few minor problems that are causing the pain, but we'll get through it," Pitino said. "I think I'll be fine."

Pitino first noticed the pain while playing golf with friends last August. He put off treatment for three months, then finally went for tests at Louisville's Jewish Hospital. He said doctors there ruled out prostate and bladder cancer, but still gave him "a little bit of a scare."

Pitino cited several reasons for going to the Cleveland Clinic -- to protect his privacy, to address the condition quickly and to avoid the temptation of coaching his team.

"I had to get away," he said. "I didn't have the time to drag this out the whole season. I felt it was going to drag out another two or three weeks. I couldn't do that mentally or physically."

Pitino said he received several messages from fellow coaches. On Tuesday, he got a phone message from Utah coach Rick Majerus, who announced Wednesday he was retiring at the end of the season after experiencing chest pains.

"The message was that his best friend is one of the best diagnostic doctors in the world and if I need him, to call him and he'd be more than happy to set it up," Pitino said. "He just went on and on about trying to help me. We're a big fraternity, all of us. We all put the competitiveness aside when it comes to health issues."

Pitino and his wife, Joanne, flew to the clinic Monday and returned home Wednesday -- in time to watch the fourth-ranked Cardinals beat Houston 64-48. Assistant coach Kevin Willard ran the team in Pitino's absence.

Pitino's son, Michael, who attended the news conference on Friday, said his father paced and yelled at the television during the game.

"That was terrible," Michael Pitino said. "We sat down and he said, 'I've never been more nervous before a game in my entire life.' He was pretty stressed out."

Pitino ran Louisville's practice Thursday afternoon and worked into the evening, sports information director Kenny Klein said.

"I'm going back full-bore," Pitino said. "If there are some little, lingering problems at the end of the season, I'll take care of it. I'm going to coach a long time, just because I love it."

The Cardinals (16-1, 6-0 Conference USA) go for their 17th consecutive victory against Marquette (12-5, 3-3) on Saturday at Freedom Hall.

Leading scorer Francisco Garcia missed Wednesday's game with a sprained ankle and top 3-point shooter Taquan Dean sat out with a pulled groin.

Pitino said Garcia was questionable and Dean definitely would not play against the Golden Eagles.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press