What does Rick Pitino have in common with Len Bias? They both broke our hearts.
First, my memory hearkens back to the early to mid ‘80s, when I was a student at the University of Maryland. I am proud to say that I went to college with Len Bias. Well, not actually with him, but at the same time. (You know what I mean!) Anyway, my claim to fame is that while I worked at the Hornbake Undergraduate Library, I waited on Len when he checked out a book. Wow. That’s it. That was the extent of my personal, face to face interaction with this star-crossed athlete who was to one day make millions of dollars playing in the NBA.
But it never was so.
Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose in the spring of 1986 right after he was selected No. 2 overall in the NBA Draft. Talk about a modern day sports tragedy. The news was devastating. When I heard the breaking story, I sat at my desk at work and was literally numb. I was dazed and distraught because Len Bias broke my heart, and the hearts of sports fans everywhere.
Len Bias was supposed to play for the Boston Celtics and break records and fulfill dreams and go down in history as one of the greatest power forwards ever. Instead, his life was an unfulfilled triumph and his death was an unnecessary tragedy.
Talk about a shattered dream. And Len’s life was the life of every University of Maryland sports fan that hoped and dreamed for fame and fortune. By extension, we lived his life. And we also died his death.
And that’s the calamity and catastrophe of a shattered dream; it eliminates everything we hoped for. It diminishes everything we yearned for. And it devastates everything in us that hungers and thirsts for something higher and better and greater. Bias went from triumph to tragedy with one bad decision. Consequently, here’s the lesson we need to learn; we need not heap our hopes on anyone or anything other than our Heavenly Father.
We all have a tendency to break hearts and shatter dreams, ours and those close to us and those that count on us. Unintentionally, we all have the propensity to let people down and put people off, and that’s one of the tragedies of sports . . . and life too.
Rick Pitino did the same thing. He broke our hearts. And the really bad part of the story is that Pitino is denying any cupability. So we may never know the truth. That’s why I feel for the fans of the University of Louisville. Pitino’s fall was not just a personal one; it was a very public one. It was shared with and by all who had faith and hope in this man who rose to the heights of the coaching ranks, but unfortunately let his friends and his fans down.
Let’s not repeat Pitino’s pitfall.