Rick Pitino Emotionally Speaks on Death of Brother-in-Law, Best Friend in 9/11: ‘Life was Never Quite as Good’

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Basketball coach Rick Pitino is like many millions of Americans. He will never forget 9/11 and his grief remains in his heart.

Pitino, who coached the New York Knicks at one time, lost his brother-in-law Billy Minardi. Minardi was working at his job as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in the Twin Towers on that morning. His identification badge would be found amongst the buildings’ rubble days after Sept. 11, 2001.

Minardi was 46 years old when he died. An article in The New York Post let Rick Pitino elaborate on 9/11 and its loss within his heart and soul. Both men reportedly talked twice a day, including on that Tuesday morning in New York City.

Rick Pitino First Met Billy Minardi In High School On Long Island

“We always say this, all of us, and we don’t mean to be melodramatic at all: Life has never been the same without him,” Pitino said. “Life was never quite as good without him. When he walked in the room, the room lit up, and when he left the room, it got dimmer.”

Both men first crossed paths at St. Domenic High School on Long Island. Rick Pitino dated Minardi’s sister Joanne, who would later marry him.

Still, the aching in his heart and the pain of hearing that horrid news around 9/11 remain deep within Pitino’s soul.

“The pain never goes away,” he said. “I have so many pictures in my office, so many pictures in my home — every Final Four, every big moment in my life from a sports standpoint and a family standpoint he was involved in.”

12-Year-Old Willie Remembered When He Learned Of Father’s Death

As a 12-year-old, Willie Minardi remembered when he found out his dad was dead. We said earlier that his ID badge was found in the rubble. Stephanie Minardi, his mother, told Willie that Billy was dead on Sept 16, 2001, her 13th wedding anniversary.

Pitino was there to comfort the young boy.

“You’re not alone here,” Rick Pitino told Willie, his nephew. “But it’s your time to be the man of the house.”

Life was not rosy for Willie and the rest of the Minardi family. Still, the young man, now all grown up, looks back upon many occasions Rick Pitino was there for him.

“He was there for us every step of the way and he has been for the past 20 years,” Willie Minardi said. “Any time I ever needed to talk to him about anything, he’s right there. He’s done so much for us. He’s always tried to honor my dad in everything he does, which is always appreciated.”

As for Rick Pitino, he still looks to tell stories beyond 9/11 about his best friend, Billy Minardi.