When University of Louisville Bookstore Manager Scott Schuknecht first heard that Coach Rick Pitino was coming out with a new book, he knew immediately that he wanted to host a signing in his store. But that would be easier said than done.
As a New York Times bestselling author and the only collegiate basketball coach to win national championships at two different schools, Pitino is a hard man to pin down. But since one of those victories, in 2013, was at the University of Louisville, Schuknecht would not be deterred.
He made phone call after phone call until he finally reached the coach’s assistant, at which point the determined bookstore manager made an impassioned pitch on behalf of the students. Although Pitino would be signing copies of his new book, The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life, around the country, University of Louisville students would not have the opportunity to attend those events. As such, they would miss the opportunity to meet the man who brought their school a national championship. It worked.
Pitino agreed to sign copies of his highly touted book for one hour — squeezing the event into his busy schedule before hitting the gym for team practice. “As you can imagine, Coach Pitino is a very busy man,” explained Schuknecht. “He can’t go anywhere in this city without people stopping him to take a picture or ask for an autograph. So when he agreed to fit us in, we were beyond thrilled.”
With only a week’s notice, Schuknecht had his work cut out for him with getting the word out. He and his team began promoting the event on the bookstore’s Facebook page. He also advertised in the school paper and on U of L Today, and set up a display of books in the store.
The enterprising manager also sent over nearly 100 books for the coach to sign before he arrived. This would ensure that fans would receive an autographed copy even if Pitino could not stay to sign for everyone. “We knew our time was limited, so we wanted to make every second count,” explained Schuknecht. “People began lining up over an hour before the event began, so we rang their books up beforehand, so they would be ready to go as soon as he arrived.”
When Pitino promptly arrived at noon, the crowd of students, faculty and staff erupted in applause. He worked his way through the line with the efficiency of a champion. “He can be a really intense guy,” remarked Schuknecht. “But he was so personable and great with every fan that came through. I was amazed at how quickly he kept the line moving, so he could meet every fan, and yet, he took time to meet each person, personalize their book and say a few words. It was truly impressive to watch.”
Many who stood in line have been loyal Louisville fans since Pitino signed on to coach the Cardinal basketball team in 2001. Freshman Isaiah Hein was one of this loyal group, as stated in The Louisville Cardinal student newspaper. “I’ve been a Louisville basketball fan for as long as I can remember, and my whole family wanted me to come out to get his signature,” the psychology major said. “My dad, my grandparents – it’s just a big thing to them. So just to be able to get the signature, I think will mean a lot to me and to my family.”
In The One-Day Contract, Pitino details his key to success, on the court and off: making the most of each day by creating a contract with yourself. Coach Pitino took Louisville to the NCAA championship by applying this concept to everything he and the team did — every practice, recruiting visit, game preparation, scouting report, and instruction to players and coaches — which ultimately lead to the Cardinals winning the national championship.
Schuknecht’s bookstore has hosted numerous book signings, including basketball sportscaster Dick Vitale in 2011. “I love hosting these events,” he said. “They create excitement in the bookstore and get people energized about reading. I’m so thrilled that Coach Pitino agreed to come here, and our campus was elated that he carved out some special time just for them. He’s a class act.”