Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 31, 2013

Louisville standout is a player with two personalities

Tom Lindley
CNHI News Service

— Chane Behanan came to the University of Louisville as a gifted athlete. He also arrived on campus as a young man who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Cincinnati where trouble was a common companion.

The big question was which trait would evolve in the new setting: Would the former McDonald’s All-American develop into a standout player? Or would an undisciplined young man who survived a tough environment fail to adjust to a system of rules, responsibility and accountability?

The answer: Both did.

On the floor, Behanan was a force. In his first two years, Louisville twice won the Big East Conference championship, twice made it to the NCAA Final Four and in 2013 claimed the national championship.

But when it wasn’t game time, Behanan had a habit of getting into trouble.  He started this season on indefinite suspension - just one of many times he found himself at odds with Coach Rick Pitino. He also had to answer to recent news that his 2012 NCAA Final Four ring was listed for sale on the Internet.

Behanan’s odyssey came to an abrupt end Monday when he was kicked off the team, not by the coach but the university, for unspecified reasons.

College athletics offer many stories of players who beat the odds to enjoy great careers - in their playing days and their professional lives. Then there are stories about guys like Chane Behanan. They can’t escape the habits picked up in their developmental days or break from those who lead them in the wrong direction.

In a hastily called news conference Monday afternoon, Pitino announced that Behanan was dismissed. His remarks, at times, sounded as if he was describing two different people.

“We lost a terrific young man in many respects,” Pitino said. “Between the lines he gave great effort and was a great teammate, a wonderful young guy to be around.

“Away from the lines, he just did not do the right things, over and over and over. The university has gone to the mat for him - as well as (athletic director) Tom Jurich - in giving him every opportunity to make it at the university. Unfortunately it has come to a difficult detour.”

What Behanan did to draw a university suspension wasn’t disclosed and probably never will be because of privacy laws. Pitino said it wasn’t grades, and the decision had nothing to do with the attempted sale of Behanan's NCAA ring, which reportedly was stolen.

It was somewhat perplexing that Behanan has been allowed to stay in school and live in a dorm with other athletes. He just can’t play – at least at Louisville.

Pitino said Behanan’s options include transferring to another college or hiring an agent and possibly turning pro.

The bigger question is whether Behanan can learn from his mistakes and make his mark on the world, or if he will follow a destructive path?

“Like I tell our guys all the time, you can’t place blame on your backgrounds,” Pitino said. “You can’t do it. That doesn’t help you make it. You’ve got to use your backgrounds to motivate you to get out of those backgrounds that are difficult. It’s got to be a motivating factor.”

Behanan has seen the best and worst of life. Shortly after arriving at Louisville, a close friend back home was gunned down. Then, last season, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound forward stood on a ladder cutting down the nets following a dramatic national championship victory over Michigan.

The experience has been tough on Pitino.

“It’s aged me,” he said. “I’m old enough, I don’t need to be aged any more. But it has - greatly. And it’s had a bad ending. Sometimes things age you and have a great ending.

“A few players I’ve coached have overcome obstacles. There’s nothing better (as) a coach, teacher, than to see a great ending. To see this kind of ending, it’s really difficult.”

Pitino's coaches and former players have offered help, as they have in the past. But in the end, life’s choices rest with Behanan.

He has demonstrated his athletic skills. Whether he has the will remains in doubt.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.