Kenny “Pain’s” First Season Thursday, Jan 26 2023 

By Spencer Laws

Any fan who thought this first season under first-year head coach Kenny Payne was going to be seamless was thinking unrealistically.

It seems Louisville Men’s Basketball has been able to run into every possible bump in the road in recent memory. These bumps have seemed to ensue from recent scandals that have set the program back in multiple aspects, including everything from postseason bans, recruiting restrictions, and most significantly, a vacated National Championship.

The fans have unquestionably been dragged through the mud since the first developments came out of the Katina Powell scandal. 

A mission to restore the legacy of a program

This season seemed like the turning of a page, the spring of a new era for Louisville Basketball for the program and the fanbase.

The fans and the city got the consensus favorite to take over the head coaching position. Louisville alumni and national champion, Kenny Payne, would be given the keys to the program. Hopefully, he would eventually restore the legacy. 

The KP hiring, along with the constant IARP ruling being held over the head of the program, has finally been resolved. The retribution the program will have to pay was considered minor in many regards. 

The hope seemed higher than it probably should’ve been. However, can you blame a fanbase that has experienced what it has over the last decade? Different pieces were brought in this off-season as others departed. Former four-star Brandon Huntley-Hatfield was the most notable name to add to the Cardinal roster.

The issues start piling on

There was still one missing piece that KP and staff needed to address, though: a point guard.  It seemed that Payne and his new staff struck out on high-level point guards in the transfer portal. 

This should’ve been the first sign of another long season for Cards fans. 

This issue resulted in Payne having to put senior El Ellis in the point guard position, handing him the responsibilities of facilitating the offense and handling the ball. Last year, we saw Ellis thrive in more of a shooting guard position. He worked off the ball, not having to dictate the Cardinal offense under his own power.

Reality set in from the start. Division II Lenoir-Rhyne came to the Yum and left with a 10-point win in the first scrimmage of the year for the Cards. 

Payne and company were able to “bounce” back and win their next scrimmage against another division II opponent, Chaminade.

Like me, most fans had to look up where these schools were even located and what level of competition they even competed in before the games started.

And yet, they continue

After this, the regular season started and the nightmare began. It started out with laughable results of back-to-back-to-back one point losses. Tag on six more to go with the first three.

The Kenny Payne era was 0-9 starting out. 

This is where I will reference the statement I began this article with — no fan with a realistic mind thought that the Cards were heading to the NCAA tournament much less the NIT this season.  

However, no one saw it taking 10 games for KP to get his first win as head coach. When that first win finally came, it felt good for Card Nation. The squad was able to take down in-state Western Kentucky on December 14. 

The team then doubled its total in the win column, this time overcoming Florida A&M on December 17. You could argue this was the last good thing to come out of the program up to this point in the season. 

A fanbase left with questions

From that point on we have seen time and time again a team that really doesn’t seem like they want to compete. This team portrays little effort and grit in a lot of different circumstances. 

The list of things wrong with this team goes on and on, but at what point does KP start to feel the heat? Does he get a pass this year because it’s his first year and the program was remodeled in the offseason? 

The abysmal 2-17 record is something the Louisville fanbase has never had to experience on the hardwood, or really any Power Five fanbase has had to face. Back in 2002, Ken Pomeroy created a website tracking many different statistical aspects of college basketball. This season we have seen this team fall below any previous Power Five team statistically.

So we address the same question again: when does Kenny Payne start to feel the heat? Is his job safe after this atrocious season ends? 

The notion lately has been that the generation of players and recruits don’t know or respect the legacy that truly is Louisville basketball. Kenny Payne played in the heyday of Louisville basketball; he helped form and create that legacy for those that came after him. So how does that argument hold up having one of our own lead the program?

The next argumentative point fans point out is that this team just doesn’t have enough talent to compete at a high level. 

On paper, by 247Sports, the Cards don’t have a single player ranked above 132 coming out of high school, excluding Hercy Miller (who wasn’t ranked). Along with that statistic, the Cards roster consists of six players ranking outside the top 90 in their respective classes. 

There are a few counters to this point: the current number-one team in the country, Purdue, lines up with an uneven roster in recruiting. While their squad looks unqualified on paper, Purdue has launched itself as a potential number-one seed come March. 

I understand these two programs are in two very different situations. However, this point needs to be brought up and talked about. 

The bottom line

It’s still hard to hear fans defend Payne past the point of, “it’s his first year”.

Fans knew this season wasn’t going to be the brightest in a lot of aspects, but many feel that more bad has been done than good.

Photo Courtesy // Spencer Laws, The Louisville Cardinal //

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Panthers hand Cards eighth 20 point loss of season, fall 75-54 Saturday, Jan 21 2023 

By Matthew Mueller

After Louisville’s latest encounter with the University of Pittsburgh, the Cardinals continue their lowball season with a 75-54 loss at home. This adds to the already recording setting and appalling record of 2-17, 0-8 in ACC play.

A familiar crash and burn

Pitt controlled Louisville on the defensive side of the ball throughout both halves of the game. Greg Elliott led the way for the Panthers with 23 points, making 75% of his shots from the field.

Furthermore, Jamarius Burton showed off his passing game shelling out 11 assists. He led all players in assists in the game, and Pittsburgh as a team recorded 21 to Louisville’s 6.

The dark (and bright) spots

As far as game positives go for Louisville, senior El Ellis had a good night leading the team with 19 points and going 5/5 at the free-throw line. Senior Jae’lyn Withers grabbed an additional 7 rebounds and 8 points.

Louisville faded fast, trailing for the rest of the second half — winning energy just wasn’t present enough to keep the Cards afloat, especially with the Pitt threes continuing to rain down in the Yum Center. They shot 41% while U of L only shot 25%.

What is to be said about this game has been said a hundred times before this season — the team is in a rough spot, and has a lot to overcome if it’s going to be among the top basketball programs in the near future.

The team especially needs leaders, and right now it feels like there are none leading to the monstrosity of the season we’ve been watching.

While Ellis and Curry are the veteran players, it feels like that key leadership role is empty, and without it being filled to get new players fired up, we could be looking at the rest of the season being nothing but an uphill fight all the way to the end.

Trying to stay positive

To stay optimistic over the latter half of ACC play, let’s point out some positives:

The team has a week’s break to prepare for their next four games. All those opponents are currently sitting in the bottom half of the ACC, meaning there are potentially a couple of realistic chances to add some wins (if the team comes to play).

Payne and company also signed top NBA Africa Academy prospect Emmanuel Okorafor, a 6-9 guard. He is eligible to play immediately, and while he may not get immediate minutes, he could provide the Cards some much-needed energy and an answer to that leadership problem in the locker room. He averaged 9.2 points and 10.4 rebounds last season.

Photo Courtesy // Adam Creech Louisville Athletics //

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Things Finally Trending Up for Louisville Basketball? Tuesday, Dec 20 2022 

By: Jason Krell

After a historical 0-9 start for the men’s basketball team, many fans began asking themselves, “Is Kenny Payne the right person to lead this team?” It is highly uncommon for a coach to be shown the door following their first year as a head coach and much less in the middle of the season. Following a 27 point loss to the Miami Hurricanes on December 4th, Payne stated, “For me, theres only one way for us to win and thats for us to play with real desperation, real fight, real determination–inch-by-inch, yard-by-yard in every aspect of the game.”

At Long Last

Louisville finally found themselves in the win column following an 11 point victory over in-state foe Western Kentucky. Senior El Ellis led all scorers notching a double double, his first of the season. Freshman Kamari Lands also added 15 off the bench, his highest of the year. The Cards were in complete control of the Hilltoppers as it seemed they had finally turned the corner and gotten things to click on the court.

As confidence soared, so did senior big man Sydney Curry in the following game against Florida A&M. Curry totaled a season high in points and rebounds as Louisville carefully hung on for a six point victory. In a quote following the win, Curry said, “It felt good, coming in with a good mindset to just play hard. When you play hard, everything else takes care of itself. It felt good to come in, win a good game, and get a good win.”

Looking Forward

Louisville plays host to Lipscomb on Tuesday 12/20 with tipoff set for 6pm where they’ll look to gain their third straight before hitting the road to Raleigh, NC to face N.C. State. If the Cards play the way they played against Western Kentucky, this is a very solid team and can even find themselves winning a handful of games in conference play. Kenny Payne may have finally gotten through to his players as it resulted in two straight wins. Only time will tell if that was a fluke or that the Cards are officially back

Photo Courtesy // Karthik Kalvakuri | Louisville Athletics //

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Kenny Payne (finally) won his game, men’s basketball routs WKU 94-83 Saturday, Dec 17 2022 

By Spencer Laws 

The Louisville men’s basketball team (1-9) picked up their first regular-season win in the Kenny Payne era against in-state foe Western Kentucky (8-2). 

Wednesday night showed a glimpse of hope that many fans have been waiting for up until this point— the nine games prior displayed a team that looked like they barely wanted to compete on the court. 

This team was hustling on fast breaks, diving for loose balls, all around just playing with a lot more energy; something plenty of Cards fans hoped Payne would instill in his players in his first years holding the keys to his alma mater. 

Numerous players transferred in and out of the program, leaving Payne with a completely different team from last year. When the losses began much of the fanbase began to point fingers at KP and the new coaching staff.

Head coach of Western Kentucky, Rick Stansbury, is happy for Payne and what it will mean going forward for him in his first year. 

“I’m proud that he got a win, just didn’t want it to be against us. So you guys get off of him some up here. I didn’t want him to beat us, I didn’t want to be the first. But again, I’ve kept things in perspective with the team. Fans don’t do that sometimes.”

What Worked

El Ellis is a big reason why the Cards picked up that win Wednesday night, torching the Hilltoppers. Ellis finished the game with 30 points and 10 assists, recording his first career double-double. He’s the first Cardinal to put up a 30-10 game since Reese Gains did back in 2002 against TCU. 

Freshman Kamari Lands added a career-high 15 points off the bench, but both were two of five players to end up in double figures.

Jae’lyn Withers finished with 10 points, Sydney Curry added 10 more, and Brandon Huntley Hatfield rounded out the group with 11 points.

The all-around offensive performance was by far the best we have seen this season. U of L ended the game shooting an impressive 54.4% from the field. As a team, they also knocked down another season-high of 13 threes (in 25 attempts), 17 assists, and a remarkable 94 points. 

WKU was able to heavily out-rebound the Cardinals, grabbing 37 to their 29. Of those 83 points, 42 came from the paint. 

Point guard Davion McKnight, a Louisville native, controlled the pace of the Hilltoppers and challenged the Cards with 25 points and five offensive rebounds.

The Cards look to double up their wins this Saturday, as Florida A&M comes to town to face off at 2 P.M.

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U of L wins 21st annual Gift of Life College Challenge Tuesday, Dec 13 2022 

By Tate Luckey

It was 20 years ago that a University of Kentucky student was donated a liver from a West Virginian, saving her life and inspiring her to start Donate Life KY. The importance of that act to her could not be understated to her.

“A lot of times, people think ‘Oh, this sort of scenario can’t happen to me’ but she’s living proof,” Crysta McGee, Donate Life Ky’s marketing and communications manager said.

This past November marked the 21st year of the Gift of Life College Challenge, a rivalry between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky to register as many organ donors as they could campus-wide. U of L handily won the competition, registering over 400 individuals compared to UK’s 75-100. A big help came from athletics- men’s basketball coach Kenny Payne tweeted about the drive and that was more than enough of a boost to the cause. U of L Health and events with the NPHC played a big role, too.

“We had the same sorts of meetings, worked with both transplant centers; but U of L took it to athletics, and that was what did it,” McGee said.

A trophy is set to be awarded to the University during the Battle of the Bluegrass men’s basketball game on Dec. 31.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, their primary focus was peer education. It has since shifted to both education and registration.

Of those on the national waitlist, which is currently over 100,000 people, 85% are in need of a kidney. The next most commonly needed organs include the liver and heart.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, too- whether it’s a religious exception or due to the cause of death. We have information [on our site] that clears all of that up,” McGee said.

According to McGee, 40% of donors’ deaths are overdose related, meaning that the heart typically has a few complications for donation. Other organs and tissue are still donatable, however.

“Kids that age get it. They understand that it’s giving back, it’s their last act,” McGee said.

If you’d like to learn more and register, you can go to donatelifeky.org, or visit optn.gov for more stats. 

Photo Courtesy // Donate Life KY //

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Struggles on and off the court continue for men’s basketball Saturday, Dec 3 2022 

By Lee Mueller

Things only seem to get worse as the Louisville men’s basketball program continues its losing streak. Struggles continue to loom on the recruiting front, with the program losing its opportunity on two five-star prospects.

Maui Misery, and Big Ten Blowout

Louisville is now a humbling 0-7, far below Card fan’s previously optimistic expectations. During their games at the Maui Invitational, the team finished the game 54 – 80 against the No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks, took a beating by No. 21 Texas Tech who worked the Cards over 70 – 38, and finally lost 62 – 81 to the Cincinnati Bearcats. In the ACC/BIG Ten challenge, the team collapsed against No. 22 Maryland, 54-79.

During their game against the Razorbacks, the team allowed a whopping 22 turnovers and only four assists. In the Texas Tech debacle, Louisville again struggled to move the ball and find shooters besides El Ellis. Relying solely on Ellis – arguably the team’s most reliable, valuable player – has proven to be problematic for the Cards, leaving them continually behind in scoring, rebounds, and assists. The squad showed some playmaking improvements- JJ Traynor and Kamari Lands continue to get more comfortable, and stepped up during the Bearcats contest- but with 15 turnovers, they’re not playing like this historic team.

Maryland again exploited the Cardinal’s double-digit turnovers, scoring 21 points off the teams 13.

“But nobody, any opponent that we play is not going to feel sorry for us and give us a W. They are going to come in here and try to beat us by 30 or 40 and we have to have pride and understand what it is,” Payne said post-game.

Recruiting Struggles

The ever-increasing losses are darkening the recruiting side of things as well, with Payne losing out on two five-star recruits.

First, Louisville lost out on A.J. Johnson, a guard ranked No. 15 in the nation, and the number 2 combo guard in the country. Johnson would have been a huge win for Payne and Louisville, but instead chose Texas.

In another heartbreaker, Louisville lost five-star recruit D.J Wagner to archrival school Kentucky. Wagner’s grandfather, Milt Wagner, was hired at U of L as an assistant coach to the men’s basketball program. Many believed there was hope that the younger Wagner might choose the Louisville team as his collegiate pick. However, DJ Wagner’s father, Dajuan Wagner, was a star player for John Calipari at Memphis. Those ties, combined with the upward trajectory of the UK’s program, ultimately led DJ Wagner to go with the Wildcats.

With a rough start to the season and the ACC play about to begin later this year, the road ahead will be a fight on all fronts as the Cards face Miami on Sunday at 1 p.m ET. Head coach Kenny Payne is realistic, understanding the team’s challenges as they rebuild their entire program from shootarounds to practices, from offense to defense, and everything in between. In an interview with the Courier-Journal, Payne said that his team record should not deter a recruit from coming here.

It may not be an easy season to watch, but hope lies ahead… there’s nowhere to go from here for the Cards but up.

Photo Courtesy // Adam Creech, Louisville Athletics //

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Nightmares Continue for the Cards, Fall to #22 Maryland in ACC/Big 10 Challenge Wednesday, Nov 30 2022 

By: Jason Krell

After a shocking 0-3 start, it seemed like a trip to Maui was just what the Cards needed to wake up and get back on track. Apparently not. Going winless in the Maui Invitational, fans are still in search of answers as to what is wrong with this team and how long they’ll have to put up with this poor performance.

The ACC/Big 10 challenge has taken place since 1999 and continued on Tuesday evening when the #22 ranked Terapins traveled to Louisville. Maryland came into this game outscoring their opponents by an average of 21.4 points so to say the Cards would have their hands full is an understatement. Shooting an impressive 50% from the field heading into this matchup, seniors Donta Scott and Hakim Hart were certainly ones projected to lead the Terps in scoring.

Rough From the Jump

The Cards never found themselves in the lead as the Terapins jumped to a quick 14-point advantage thus killing any momentum Kenny Payne and company had leading up to tip-off. Louisville once again finds themselves getting exposed on defense and simply forcing too many unnecessary shots on the opposite end of the floor. Senior Sydney Curry found himself not in the starting lineup for the second straight game and was replaced by JJ Traynor who is only averaging 6.2 points per game. Trailing by 11 at the half, the Cards found themselves in a very similar situation they’ve been in all year, digging themselves a hole they can’t get out of.

Second Half Horrors

If the Cards were planning on finally succeeding in a second-half comeback, it wasn’t going to be this contest. Shooting woes continued for the Cards after the break and the Terapins found themselves leading by as much as 33 with six minutes to play in regulation. All 14 Cardinals saw action in the second half but only El Ellis’ 15-point performance is worth mentioning. Ellis continues to carry the workload for this team with no signs of help coming any time soon.

Who’s To Blame?

Entering this year, no team from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC had started 0-7 (statistic courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info). Louisville broke the record books. Fingers can be pointed to a lot of individuals as to who is responsible for this horrific start, but this falls simply on the coaching staff. It is a coach’s job to prepare his or her team appropriately so they don’t end up playing like the Louisville team we’ve seen for the last seven games. Something is clearly not clicking for this team and there is by no means a lack of talent on this roster. Former head coach Chris Mack was able to accomplish more with less during his tenure in the ‘Ville so that leaves just one suspect. Kenny Payne continues to struggle in his inaugural season as head coach and a lot of fans are wondering if this was the right hire. Surely Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at least progress was made along the way. The Cardinals are now favored in just three of their remaining games (Florida A&M, Lipscomb, and Florida State).

Looking Ahead

The Cards will be back in action on Sunday 12/4 against Miami (Fla.) on the ACC Network before playing their first true road game of the year when they travel to Florida State on 12/10.

Photo Courtesy// Matthew Mueller 

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Cards Can’t Complete Comeback, Fall To Bellarmine 67-66 Sunday, Nov 13 2022 

By: Jason Krell

The Knights of Bellarmine wanted nothing more than to spoil the first game of the Kenny Payne
era and walk out of the Yum! Center with a win, and they did just that.

The Cards were slow out of the gate and Bellarmine took full advantage outscoring them 41-30
in the first half. Defensive breakdowns allowed the Knights to lead by as much as twelve in
the first half and completely dominated in the paint despite Louisville’s size advantage. The
Knights shot an impressive 59% from the field to the Cards’ 38% heading into the break where
one can only imagine what Payne had to say to his guys.

The pressure was on now to see if Louisville could wake up in the second half and avoid one of
the worst opening losses in recent memory. The Cards’ comeback quest was fueled by trio
Jae’Lyn Withers, El Ellis, and Mike James who all scored in double figures, but were matched by
Bellarmine’s Garret Tipton and Bash Wieland, putting up 21 and 13 respectively.

Trimming down the lead late in the second half, Louisville was within one with a chance to send
the Knights packing. Freshman Kamari Lands missed a potential game-winning jump shot that
would have given the Cards the edge. Bellarmine escaped a second-half collapse and walked off
the court feeling more confident than ever that they belonged with the big boys.

All is not lost for the Cardinals as they will get a second chance on Saturday, November 12th
where they will take on Wright State. No game from this point forward will be a walk in
Cherokee Park, but the Cards can take away the positives from this contest and move on.

A head coach in his first season with a new roster is bound to have some early season hiccups. Let us not
press the panic button…yet.

File Photo // USA TODAY //

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Why You Shouldn’t Panic After Louisville’s Loss to Lenoir-Rhyne Saturday, Nov 5 2022 

By: Jason Krell

Sunday’s contest against division two foe, Lenoir-Rhyne gave Cardinal fans a first glimpse of what Kenny Payne and company have been building this offseason and what’s the come during the 2022-23 season.

The Issues

The Cards managed to hold a two-point lead heading into halftime but would get outscored 31-19 in the second half and shoot an abysmal 23% from the field. Leading all scorers was redshirt junior, Jae’Lyn Withers who is one of just seven returners on this Louisville roster. 

The Kenny Payne era got off to a slow start with Sunday’s loss marking the end of a 39-game winning streak in exhibition games dating back to December of 2000 where Denny Crum and company fell 87-86 in double overtime to the Global Sports All-Stars. 

Don’t Panic

Sure, fans are upset to lose to a small little school in Hickory, North Carolina, but fans shouldn’t be sweating just yet. This is Payne’s first year as a head coach at any level so there are bound to be some ups and downs. Payne took over this program with the knowledge that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get this team back to where they know they can be.

Looking Forward

Additionally, the first game with a whole new roster and coaching staff is all but guaranteed to have a slow start on their first time hitting the court. Making open shots, rebounding, and defensive effort are all things that will come in time as the Cards continue to shake the rust off. They will have one more opportunity to get the screws tightened in an exhibition matchup against Chaminade on November 3rd before opening regular season play against across-town foe, Bellarmine on November 9th at 9 pm.

A rocky start certainly doesn’t predict the future but rather provides a benchmark for fans and players moving forward. Many Cards fans remain optimistic that Kenny Payne will turn this program around and contend as one of the top teams in the ACC and on the national stage.

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Men’s basketball avoids postseason ban in NCAA IARP ruling Thursday, Nov 3 2022 

By Tate Luckey 

After five years, five coaches, four university presidents, three athletic directors, and lots of questions, the Louisville men’s basketball program received the details of its punishment from the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP). The IARP is responsible for reviewing select complex infraction cases within Division I. Their Nov. 3 decision detailed what penalties the University would face for its alleged involvement with Adidas and improper recruiting practices.

The Penalties

In May of 2020, the NCAA accused U of L of committing a Level I violation dating back to 2017, in which Adidas recruited Brian Bowen in part by paying his family $100,000 if he attended U of L , and then signed with Adidas after going pro. There are additional Level II violations, that can be found here.

The IARP panel could not find sufficient proof Adidas was acting in U of L’s interests, or that the University played any role in Adidas’s actions.

According to the 105-page decision, the NCAA argued that former head coach Rick Pitino was “too strict on compliance for it to be effective.” The IARP rejected the argument, stating Pitino had fostered an adequate atmosphere of compliance.

Major penalties include a $5,000 fine, a two-week ban on unofficial visits during the 2022-2023 academic year, a seven-day reduction in recruiting days for the 2022-2023 academic year, and a two-year probationary period, in which Louisville is to develop a “comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation designed to instruct…with recruiting responsibility.” Former head coach Chris Mack also avoids any punishment.

The full list can be found here. IARP decisions cannot be appealed.

“A step in the right direction”

U of L Athletic Director Josh Heird emphasized in a press conference Thursday to “not forget [the impact] the allegations have had on the fanbase.” He and Interim President Lori Gonzalez are focused on moving past this era of athletics, instead focusing on rebuilding the enthusiasm of the fanbase. Both consider this outcome a check off of the many items on their to-do list.

“If you’re a U of L fan and don’t feel better after today, then I’m not sure you’re a fan,” Heird said.

“You can’t forget the last five years- the millions of dollars that have been spent, the millions of dollars the program has lost, and opportunities that have been lost for our athletes to compete. Today marks the beginning of a new chapter.”

Students, alumni, and fans alike can now breathe a collective sigh of relief that this era of Louisville Basketball can finally be pushed behind them.

So…will that 2013 banner be raised?

When the IARP’s penalties were revealed Thursday morning, reactions from fans were swift. Former player and current Cleveland Cavalier Donovan Mitchell sent “BANNER UP” on his social media, and Barstool Cards tweeted a simple “Hang it.

But with this case finally resolved, does that mean anything for this important piece of University of Louisville sports history?

For context, the 2013 title was vacated due to a separate 2017 investigation that uncovered a stripper and sex-related scandal involving former players, former director of basketball operations Andre McGee, and Pitino. The now Iona Gaels head coach stated in a Zoom call Thursday that he believes in the character of the NCAA, and that the vacated 2013 National Championship banner will be hung again.

“You cannot take championships away. We won the 2013 championship. If the IARP was involved in looking at that case, that banner would still be hanging today,” he said.

“I’m not going to make any promises, but if there’s an opportunity to do something along those lines, we’re going to do it,” Heird said. “I’d have to have more conversations with the NCAA- it’s not as simple as rolling down to the arena and raising it.”

This is a breaking story, and as such will be updated.

File Photos // GoCards.com //

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