Quite frankly, I don’t understand how Rick Pitino can summon the gall to sue an institution that has supported him throughout all of his controversy at Louisville. Although there is only one record of NCAA misconduct prior to his stint at with the Cardinals, it served as a foreshadow of the infamy to come.
In the 70’s, he served as both an assistant and interim head coach for the University of Hawaii. While there, the program was hit by NCAA sanctions, with Pitino implicated in eight of the 64 violations. The violations involving Pitino included giving plane tickets to a player, arranging for athletes to get used cars and giving out coupons for free food at McDonald’s.
Ironically, he would take the reigns of a troubled program at the University of Kentucky, which was facing NCAA sanctions prior to his arrival.
“This program is as rich in tradition as there is in all of basketball, but you’ve been brought to your knees with a tremendous scandal.” – Rick Pitino.
He left Kentucky with a national championship, would go on to coach in the NBA, and then return to the college ranks at Louisville, where his third, and latest strike cost him his job and maybe his legacy.
Strike one: In 2009, he confessed that he had an affair with the wife of the team’s equipment manager and paid for her to have an abortion. The woman, Karen Sypher, was later convicted of trying to extort Pitino for millions of dollars. C’mon man.
Strike two: In 2015, Andre McGee, a former director of basketball operations was found to have provided strippers and prostitutes to players and recruits in a campus dormitory over several years. The school declared itself ineligible for postseason play in 2016, and the NCAA suspended Pitino for the first five games of the coming season.
The scandal was heavily reported by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and YahooSports. The allegations are detailed in a book entitled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” co-written by Katina Powell, who told ESPN she provided women for Louisville recruits in exchange for a total of $10,000 in payments.
Powell essentially served as a madam and in her book detailed about 21 recruiting “parties” with strippers and sex from 2010-2014 inside Billy Minardi Hall, an on-campus Louisville dorm for athletes and other students named for the late brother-in-law of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Powell gives an extensive interview with ESPN for its story and supplied information such as text messages and phone records. One former Louisville recruit who is attending another school told ESPN:
“I knew they weren’t college girls. It was crazy. It was like I was in a strip club.“
Another player told ESPN that McGee…
“would give us the money, just the recruits. A bunch of us were sitting there while they danced. Then the players left, and the recruits chose which one (of the dancers) they wanted.”
His lawyer, Scott Tompsett, planned an appeal of Pitino’s suspension because he said the ruling did not “identify a single specific thing that Coach Pitino should have done that he wasn’t already doing that would have either prevented or detected the illicit activities.” Pitino has denied knowledge of the matter, to which Powell told ESPN, “How could he not know?”
Strike three: The latest scandal serves as the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a federal complaint that I’ve previously posted, Louisville is alleged to have paid $100,000 to star recruit Brian Bowen. That money was funneled from Adidas through Louisville in order to lure his commitment. At the time he was recruited, Pitino told News Radio 840: “We got lucky on this one. I had an A.A.U. director call me and ask me if I’d be interested in a player. I said, ‘Yeah, I’d be really interested.’ In my 40 years of coaching, this is the luckiest I’ve been.” Now, Bowen’s collegiate career, and Pitino’s coaching career are left in limbo.
Rick Pitino should use his absence from the basketball to re-evaluate his values, his purported lack of awareness, and what it means to be a leader. He has been quick to point the finger of blame at everyone but himself. In my opinion, even if he didn’t take part in either of the last two scandals, I attribute the consequences to blatant negligence. How could this type of conduct continue under his nose? Either he turned a blind eye to any instances of wrongdoing, or he elected to allow HIS team to be run behind closed doors by THEIR own devices, and not his. That is not leadership.