Rick Pitino is widely considered one of the greatest college basketball coaches to ever stalk the sidelines. Since his first full season as a head coach at Boston University in 1979-80, Coach Pitino has had one losing season, and that was his second year at BU. Over his career he has amassed 770 career wins, and has winning percentage of over 74%.
Pitino has always been able to develop talent, and going back to his Kentucky days, has always been able to recruit talent. During his time at PC, Billy Donovan saw his points per game average increase five fold as a junior, and was a 20 ppg scorer his senior year. Pitino would leave PC to spend a few seasons with Knicks before returning to the NCAA ranks, and after two seasons in which Kentucky was ineligible for the post season, he led the Wildcats to two elite eights, a final four, a national runner up and a championship in six seasons.
After a short lived second life in the NBA with the Celtics, Pitino took over at Louisville and was immediately labeled a traitor by those in Lexington who had been rabidly cheering for him just 4 years earlier. He immediately started landing recruits by bringing in Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean. During his tenure in the ‘Ville, he brought in program greats such as Terrance Williams, Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa, Preston Knowles (not great until his senior year but still), Samardo Samuels, and fan favorite Kyle Kuric. That is just up to the 2008-09 season.
Now, when I was a young, my grandfather told me two things make smart men incredibly stupid. Pretty women and cash money.
On August 12, 2009 ESPN released a story detailing Pitino, a married father of five, being extorted by a woman he had an one night stand with, as well as paying for her abortion. There were other details, but it boiled down to, rich famous man gets drunk, pretty lady sees a pay day, seduces man because we are weak, then tortures man because money. Apparently two weeks after the two slept together she was pregnant and Pitino gave her $3000 for an abortion or to help her get health insurance. Either way, she set him up to get herself a paid and should be shunned in the streets. Rick is obviously not innocent here, but as a fellow dude, I can tell you, it’s hard.
Pitino continued to reel in talent during this fiasco landing players like Russ Smith, Rakeem Buckles, Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell.
In 2012-13 Louisville went 35-5 and Pitino won his second national championship.
In early 2015 it was revealed that a former player and Louisville staff member, Andre McGee, was throwing parties on campus complete with strippers and escorts provided to recruits and their fathers/guardians from 2010-2014. Pitino predictably and unconvincingly stated that he had no knowledge of his staff members involvement and was somehow given a pass. Louisville banned itself from post season play in the 2015-16 season as a preemptive strike on the impending NCAA sanctions. The NCAA suspended Pitino for the first five ACC games of the 2016-17 season and could possibly lose their 2013 championship as well as many other wins due to the use of both Harrell and Behanan, and hit Andre McGee a show cause even though his career was basically over. Louisville of course appealed it’s punishment ridiculously stating that the punishment was too severe.
That appeal had yet to reach its conclusion when yesterday a story broke about corruption in college basketball and an FBI led investigation into bribery, wire fraud and under the table deals where coaches were steering recruits to Adidas once they turned pro was exposed. Louisville just announced a little over a month ago a new 10 year, $160 million dollar deal with Adidas. Once again Coach Pitino is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In June, Louisville somehow landed Brian Bowen, one of the top recruits in the 2017 class who had been considered a heavy Oregon lean up until decision day. It was revealed yesterday that Bowen had received $100k to attend Louisville.
Pitino and AD Tom Jurich were fired about 20 minutes ago. Jurich apparently refused to resign saying he did nothing wrong. Hey Tom, having no idea that your basketball program is buying recruits through your apparel provider is wrong. That’s #1 on the list of shit that will get you fired.
During the stripper and prostitution scandal Pitino somehow escaped career crucifixion by simply saying “I didn’t know what was going on.” That is not going to fly here, and frankly, it really shouldn’t have flown then. 98% of the major college sports coaches would have been fired in that instance, but the almighty dollar drove the decision to keep Pitino around as Louisville is one of the most profitable basketball programs in the country ($24 Million in profits in 2013-14).
In all honesty, Pitino sounds like a bunch of my friends. Booze, strippers, reckless spending and bathroom sex. Louisville gave CRP a pass on the bathroom sex, the NCAA gave him a pass on strippers and pros, but this is the FBI Ricky, and “I didn’t know” isn’t going to get it done because they don’t give a fuck.
In the end this may even out college recruiting just a bit, for a week or two, and kids may make their decisions actually based on factors that involve the Universities. In the long run however, it will change nothing. Guys that didn’t get caught in this one have already changed up their game and carrying on like its business as usual.
What will the sanctions be? Who will be ineligible? When will the NCAA start determining what comes of this mess? I do not know, but I can assure you this is not the end of what is going to happen. Miami has also been implicated along with half a dozen other programs around the country, and some major recruits from the 2018 and 2019 classes have also been implicated, some due to their association with certain AAU programs.
College recruiting is a dirty business and I doubt it will ever change. But, it gives me something to write about other than those tedious Preseason Previews.
Oh, big ups to Randy Bennett and St. Mary’s for landing Matthias Tass, that kid is going to dominate the WCC someday.