"It took a long time to gain humility," Pitino said Sunday. "If I had one regret in life, it wouldn't be what you think. It's that I wasn't more humble at an earlier age. And I preach to any young coach that comes along. I tell my son all the time, 'Don't make the same mistakes when I was your age.' "
His son Richard just became the head coach at Minnesota. His horse just won the Santa Anita Derby. He is almost certainly going to be announced as a 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee on Monday morning. His team is favored to win the national championship Monday night.
It would be overwhelming for a man who has not developed the perspective that only comes with age. The boy wonder is now 60. And he lives like a beloved book advises - in "The Precious Present."
He knows what is important and who is important. And he has a hero from another era, the greatest coach in the history of American team sports.
"Every page of anything you read about John Wooden is just like a manuscript for any young coach how to carry himself and how to live your life," Pitino said. "That man was truly one of the most incredible people we've had on this earth."
Pitino learned a basketball lesson he has never forgotten when he was with the Knicks.
"I was taught a long time ago about why you win and why you lose from a good buddy named Dick McGuire," Pitino said. "He told me great players play in the middle of the floor, where the window is open, you can see their options. Inferior players play to the sideline and the baseline."
Louisville's players are always in the middle of the floor on offense, pushing their opponents to the lines on defense. It really is the essence of the sport.
This championship game will be so fascinating because it matches the nation's most efficient offense (Michigan) against the nation's most efficient defense (Louisville). The Louisville offense has been an absolute revelation in this tournament. It is now one of the nation's best.
Michigan's defense has been dramatically better in the tournament than it was during the season, but it will be the weakest unit on the floor. That Michigan's biggest weakness is stopping the ball will play right into Louisville's greatest strength, beating teams off the bounce.
The season numbers are important, but it is about these teams right now. The reality is that Louisville was outplayed by Wichita State and won because of its desire and great play from the bench. Michigan outplayed Syracuse. It was only close because the Wolverines appeared to be tiring at the end.
Who is fresher at the finish of the endless season and this grueling tournament is quite relevant. That Louisville played the first game Saturday is a definite edge. The second game did not end until 11:45 p.m. The Michigan players did not leave the news conference until 12:30 a.m. Who knows when they finally got to sleep?
Pitino downplayed his team's Final Four experience, but his players did not. Historically, the more veteran team has won in this spot, going back to Duke's great team beating the Fab Five in 1992. The only obvious exception is when Syracuse beat Kansas in 2003, but it surely helped that KU was 12-for-30 from the foul line.
It will be the nation's best offensive guards (Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.) against the nation's best defensive guards (Russ Smith and Peyton Siva). The X-factor is the dramatic improvement of Michigan freshman center Mitch McGary. He is averaging 16.0 points and 11.6 rebounds in the NCAA. He has become a force, but can Louisville's all-out style tire him out?
Michigan is great in the open court, with all its skill and three-point shooting. The Wolverines can score with anybody. But can they win a shootout against a team whose players never appear to get tired?
Foul trouble put Louisville in jeopardy against Wichita. Michigan fouls less than any team in the country (it had a player foul out just once all season). The Wolverines turn it over the least. They do not beat themselves. Louisville will have to beat them.
"It affected us not in terms of foul trouble," Pitino said of the Wichita game. "It affected us in the fact that guys were afraid to foul and their pressure relented until we obviously had to try to win the game."
When they had to win, they won. They have been winning since that crazy, five-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 9.
Michigan's offense can be so good that it definitely could win. Louisville's toughness and big-game experience really should carry the night and end Pitino's perfect week perfectly.
If one player can define Louisville, it would be Siva, one of those indispensable players that every champion needs. He will be playing his final game.
"I was a freshman, getting pressed the whole time in practice and turning it over every play," he said. "For me it's been a great run, long journey, a lot of ups and downs. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Every day I treat it like it was my last game. [Monday], it definitely is."
The championship game will end an uneven season where offensive numbers continued their fall off the cliff. These teams don't play that way. They play the game in a pleasing manner, giving great tribute to the teams and players that have gone before them.
"It's incredible how the game won't stop evolving," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "If you don't evolve, you're going to get beat. I think solving that puzzle is why I love coaching. I love putting the puzzle together."
It will be Beilein's two-guard front against Pitino's pressure. It will be two basketball lifers, one with overwhelming talent for the first time and the other with a team constructed in his image. It will be one final game for a championship.