You’ve gotta hand it to Rick Pitino: It’s impressive he survived this long.
Not too many coaches could survive not one, but two, sex scandals, but that’s how it works when you’re one of the best basketball minds in the game. Pitino resurrected two programs in the basketball-ball crazy state of Kentucky, leading both the Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals to NCAA titles. And now he’ll depart in the midst of one of the biggest scandals in college sports history, a black mark on a sterling career.
But will it really ruin his legacy? Perhaps not.
Pitino, one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball, is out after 16 years at Louisville — officially on unpaid administrative leave but “effectively fired” in the words of his attorney — brought down by the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York and the FBI as a scandal exploded Tuesday morning where 10 men were indicted on charges of fraud, bribery, money laundering and corruption. And we can all agree this is just the beginning of what is sure to be a long, drawn-out process. I’m not sure the FBI truly realizes how many shady characters are floating around AAU tournaments.
Pitino, in keeping with the theme of his Louisville tenure, played dumb of course. After the FBI warned coaches and anyone else involved in these type of business dealings that “we have your playbook,” Pitino issued a statement through his lawyer that “the allegations come as a complete shock to me.”
For someone so successful, he sure seems OK with being portrayed as clueless. Just a couple of years ago, when news broke that Louisville had provided prostitutes for players and recruits, Pitino again claimed ignorance. Then Louisville fought back and said that really, the prostitutes didn’t help them land that great of recruits anyway. That anyone felt comfortable packing their teenage son off to play for this guy, someone who clearly had no integrity, is beyond me. But hey, he wins, and that’s what matters in our society.
Only now, it’s the FBI that has the better gameplan. Coaches and administrators have never really been scared of the NCAA, but it’s likely many of them will sing like canaries when the FBI and IRS get involved, because prison time makes you re-think loyalty.
SOURCE: Lindsay Schnell
USA TODAY Sports