“I’m in heaven right now and where I need to be.”
Content. The longing of every human heart. Being right where you are supposed to be. Knowing, for certain, you are doing what you are made to do. Or, better yet, being who you were made to be.
The quote above is from Rick Pitino. Yes, that Rick Pitino. The one who coached the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. And, oh yeah, the Kentucky Wildcats. He is best known for is his seventeen-year run with the University of Louisville. With the Cardinals he won a national championship, reached the Final Four three years, and the Elite Eight six times.
As for basketball coaching – especially college basketball coaching – Pitino has been to the top. And, for him, the view wasn’t that pretty.
Rick Pitino said he was in heaven and exactly where he needs to be in an interview immediately following a loss to Alabama in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He said this as the head coach of . . . wait for it . . . Iona. I had to look up where it is located (New Rochelle, New York). Iona is in the MAAC conference. I don’t even know what the letters stand for. Their mascot? The Gaels. I had to look that up too. After a brief search on the internet, I’m still confused. All I can tell you is a Gael is someone of Irish descent who personifies strength.
If I’ve lost you, let me summarize: Rick Pitino, the guy who has been to the very top of the college basketball mountain, said he was in heaven. After losing to Alabama. As the head coach of Iona. Who are known as the Gaels.
As much as I want to make a joke about how I would be in hell after losing to Alabama, I will refrain (sort of).
I cannot begin to tell you what reading Pitino’s words did for my soul. As a man who is always thinking about climbing ladders and making things bigger and seeing how much more I can make or how many more “likes” I can get from people – reading this article settled my soul. It challenged me. It encouraged me. It, once again, made me think – “what God says really can be trusted.”
Think about it. After leading the Gaels to the NCAA tournament, Pitino could probably begin to climb the ladder again. He could answer phone calls from the bigger schools. But he doesn’t want to. He’s been there. It’s not what it was all cracked up to be. “Heaven,” according to Pitino, was coaching the Gaels. Of Iona. In the MAAC conference.
When asked what he has planned he said, “just try to make young men better, try to make the program reach heights its’ never reached.” More money. More power. More control. More status. More climbing. None of it is what Pitino wants anymore. His desire is to make young men and a struggling program better. He is completely content with that.
Don’t all of us want that? Contentment. Peace. Joy. Life. The ceasing of striving. I know I do. I don’t know anything about Rick Pitino’s spiritual life. But I find it curious that he would say he is in “heaven right now.” It is a reminder to be constantly on the lookout for what God is doing. To welcome and embrace and surrender to the presence of God. To not think about what is next, but to be present in the present. After all, the kingdom of God isn’t found by our striving to the top of the mountain. Jesus came down to bring it to us. “Heaven,” for Pitino wasn’t found on the mountain of college basketball greatness. It was found in a small Irish school in New York state. That’s where he could be himself and use his gifts to make young men better.
What about you? Why do you do what you are doing? What are you hoping to find? Where are you going? Why are you trying to go there? What are you hoping to receive once you get to the top? Are you running from something? Are you running toward something? Do you have much joy? Heaven is where God is. So let’s learn from a coach who’s team just got crushed by my least favorite school: pay attention to your soul and lean in to where and what and how and why God has you where He does.
Who knows? You might find yourself in heaven with other Gaels after losing to Alabama.