Rick Pitino, coach of the University of Louisville basketball team, still remembers his greatest comeback. It was back when he coached the Kentucky Wildcats, during a 1994 game against Louisiana State.
With 15:30 left in the game, Kentucky trailed 68-37. It seemed to everyone that the Wildcats would lose the game. That is, to everyone except Pitino.
The coach called a timeout. But he didn’t berate his players. “I didn’t want any negative energy,” he says. Instead, he set a manageable goal. “First, let’s get our dignity and pride back.”
Over the next 13 minutes, the Wildcats chipped away at LSU’s lead, bringing it to 10 points. With 2:30 left to play, Pitino called another timeout. This time he told them, “This is our game.”
The Wildcats won—a feat known as the Mardi Gras Miracle.
Pitino’s takeaway: Set your team’s sights on small victories en route to a larger one.
“If I’d called that timeout with us down 31 and said let’s win this game, no one in the huddle would have believed me,” he says.
— Adapted from “Rick Pitino’s Basketball Passion,” Curt Schleier, Investor’s Business Daily.