Chane Behanan helped Louisville reach the Final Four each of the past two seasons. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Two years ago, Rick Pitino said Chane Behanan was “as good as any freshman I’ve coached since Jamal Mashburn.” On Monday, the talented junior forward’s career at Louisville came to an abrupt end long before it could be compared to that of the former Kentucky All-America and NBA All-Star.
The university announced in an afternoon press conference that it had dismissed Behanan for an unspecified violation of its policy.
"We lost a really terrific man in many respects," Pitino said. "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, in giving him every opportunity to make it here. It's come to a difficult detour in his road. It's set our basketball team back immensely."
Pitino also announced that there is a strong chance that guard Kevin Ware will be red-shirted. Ware famously suffered a gruesome broken leg in last spring's Elite 8 win over Duke and helped inspire his teammates to the national title but his loss would not be anywhere near as significant on the court as Behanan's. Ware has played in just nine games and 53 minutes this season for the 11-2 Cardinals, who are ranked No. 14 after losing Saturday at archrival Kentucky, while Behanan was a starter each of the past two years and a key member of the rotation this year.
This was not the first time Behanan had run afoul of university rules. He was suspended indefinitely in October for a similar violation but was reinstated less than a month later and missed just one game because of the suspension. However, his footprint on the Cardinals had seriously diminished. After averaging 26 minutes in each of his first two seasons, he was down to 18.6 minutes in 12 games this year. He was also averaging career lows in points (7.6) and rebounds (6.3).
According to Pitino, the chance for another reinstatement with the university is nil.
“This is a university policy that has been stretched to the limits,” Pitino said. The coach said that Behanan may be able to transfer and play at the college level next season, or he could pursue a professional career.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals, who have yet to register a signature win as they attempt to defend their national championship, now have to continue on without one of their most important frontcourt players. The onus is now on Montrezl Harrell, who is averaging 12 points and eight rebounds in 24.4 minutes, to pick up the slack. Expect an uptick in minutes for Mangok Manthiang and Stephen Von Treese. The Cardinals could also choose to go small more often by giving more time to 6-foot-5 wing Wayne Blackshear, a junior who is averaging a career-high 9.8 points and shooting 43.6 percent from behind the arc. The team has struggled to find a reliable third scorer alongside guards Russ Smith and Chris Jones, who may have to carry even more of the burden as conference play begins this week.