Even if he would have placed both hands on a dozen Bibles and pledged a thousand times to be telling the truth and nothing but the truth, Rick Pitino had to know Wednesday that his time coaching at the University of Louisville was over.
That’s when interim school president Greg Postel held a press conference to announce that Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich each had been placed on administrative leave – Pitino without pay, Jurich with pay. But that’s just a contractual obligation. Neither will work at U of L again.
Pitino’s final denial was one too many for the Cardinals’ basketball coach. Jurich also he finally ran out of his excuses for his failure to oversee the day-to-day operations of a basketball program that had long been crossing ethical lines in recruiting.
This time it was federal prosecutors who were armed with incriminating evidence that Louisville, allegedly using money from an Adidas representative, had paid cash to convince at least one current player to play for the Cardinals.
It doesn’t take Columbo to put two and two together to figure out that player is 6-foot-7 freshman Brian Bowen, who committed to Louisville in June.
Pitino is the first head coach to be disciplined in what is expected to be a scandal that will implicated many other schools and head coaches. For now, the FBI’s focus is on four assistant coaches – Chuck Person of Auburn, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, Tony Bland of Southern California and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State – and sports agents. Person and Evans have been suspended and Bland, who was at South Carolina until last season, has been placed on administrative leave.
Besides those schools and Louisville, the investigation also has cast a shadow over the University of Miami.
But the investigation is hardly over and names of other assistant coaches, head coaches and universities will become public.
For Louisville, it was too much NCAA scrutiny on Pitino’s watch.
The school was already under NCAA probation for the 2015 sex scandal involving a prostitute being hired to arrange sex parties at the basketball dorm for recruits. Louisville has been ordered to return money from NCAA tournament appearances from 2012 through 2015 and forfeit 123 wins, including the school’s 2013 NCAA championship. Pitino was sanctioned to miss five ACC games even though he denied any knowledge of the hiring of prostitutes by Andre McGee of the basketball staff.
Pitino’s problems at Louisville also includes having an equipment manager’s wife attempting to blackmail him after he ended their affair in 2010.
This time it appears Pitino has screwed himself, bringing to an end his 16-year stint at Louisville that saw him post a record of a 416-143. Overall, he’s 770-271 over 32 years while also coaching at Hawaii, Boston College, Providence and Kentucky, where he won the 1996 NCAA title. He also has coached in the NBA in Boston Celtics and New York.