Rick Pitino On Marcus Smart: "Fans Can Be Very Abusive"

02/12/2014 02:13 PM

When Marcus Smart shoved a heckling fan at the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game, the sophomore guard opened the floodgates of debate over appropriate fan behavior and how players should react to hostile crowds. While UofL head coach Rick Pitino did not endorse Smart’s shove, Pitino said college sports fans are starting to resemble the “hooligans in soccer.”

“Fans can be very abusive these days,” Pitino said. “That’s a grown man yelling at you ‘piece of crap.’ I don’t know if he’s a father or not, but you just don’t do that. When you’re two feet away, you don’t yell at a young man. He’s lucky he didn’t get punched, because that’s what happened in Detroit.”

The Motor City was home to what Pitino called one of the worst heckling fans he’s ever encountered throughout his career.

“He talked about race the whole game. Throughout the course of the game, I could not believe what this guy yelled,” Pitino said. “So nothing I’ve heard in my lifetime has been worse. You just have to tune every thing out.”

Ignoring insults hurled from the fans can be difficult, but Pitino said he’s developed skin as thick as a rhinoceros over the last four or five years as the Cards have traveled into rough road environments like Pittsburgh, Syracuse and, of course, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.

“We’ve been to hostile places. We’ve heard every chant imaginable. I just tell them laugh it off. Don’t worry about it,” Pitino said. “I explained to them in my 39 years of coaching, people yell things much worse than that. You move on, and you get the victory. If you lose, it hurts a bit more.”

Pitino did not seem worried that an incident between opposing players and fans would occur at the Yum! Center, because as he put it, Cards fans are courteous and create a professional atmosphere.

“When they announce the coach, everyone claps. Everyone treats [the opposing team] great,” Pitino said. “Our fans aren’t worried about the opposing team. They are worried about their next Maker’s Mark.”

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