April 10, 2013
The NCAA Championship trophy was carried to the stage by senior point guard and team captain Peyton Siva. The ceremony began with just the crystal NABC championship trophy on display, but leaders from the men's and women's team brought several other trophies during introductions.
It's time to celebrate. That was the message delivered by Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino as the University of Louisville officially celebrated the remarkable runs by the school's two basketball programs.
Louisville fans filled the KFC YUM Center Wednesday to honor the men's national championship and women's national runner up.
The ceremony capped a remarkable run for Louisville and put an exclamation point on what has been a banner year for the Cards. The University displayed its bounty of new hardware and showed tournament highlights as UofL coaches and players addressed the exuberant crowd.
The celebration was also a final goodbye for point guard Peyton Siva and a likely farewell for juniors Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng.
The true NCAA championship and runner up banners won't be unveiled until the start of next season, but Louisville did roll out two mock banners to a roaring standing ovation.
Pitino recalled the time after the five OT loss to Notre Dame. He said he told the team that they could run the table and win the title. He said no one in the locker room flinched over the high expectations and they all believed they could accomplish the goal.
A highlight video of the men's championship run was played above center court. The loudest cheers came anytime Luke Hancock hit a three or Montrezl Harrell dunked.
It was tough for everyone at the ceremony to watch Kevin Ware lay on the court. But as the video cut to a shot of Chane Behanan wearing Ware's jersey after the Duke game, Behanan smiled and Ware put his arm around him. It was a touching moment that wasn't lost on photographers in attendance.
Tom Jurich continues to have the magic touch. He continually recognized the strength of the Louisville fan base, called the Cardinal Nation a family and said that everyone involved had been blessed to be a part of something so special.
Louisville's other Hall of Fame coach, Denny Crum, was present at the celebration. Coach Crum attended every game during the Cards run.
Peyton Siva's dad has reached celebrity status among the Cardinal faithful. Wearing his trade mark sleeveless t-shirt, he received an ovation as he entered the YUM Center and took a seat next to Russ Smith, Sr.
"We just put in our minds that we wanted to win a National Championship and that's what we did." - Kevin Ware
We're going to work hard and be back in the national championship next year." - Atonita
"I want to say thank you for a tremendous three years here and I love you." - Russ Smith
"I've been here two years and been to two Final Fours."- Luke Hancock
We are here today to honor the 2013 National Champions." - Emcee Sean Moth
"This is the best college sports town in America." - Tom Jurich
Coach Pitino said he relaxed and drank a beer at the Beach bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans last night. He said he almost became emotional after seeing highlights of Chane Behanan's effort on three put backs in the final game.
University of Louisville President, Dr. James Ramsey, referred to Tom Jurich as the greatest athletic director in America. Ramsey's sentiment was echoed by Pitino and Walz.
Peyton Siva admitted to fans that when he first came to Louisville, he didn't know how to pronounce the name of the city. He said he originally called it Lewisville
UofL had only planned comments from Siva, Kevin Ware and Luke Hancock, but after separate chants for Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng, both addressed the crowd. After the ceremony, Pitino told media members that he anticipated both would stay in the NBA Draft.
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