Rick Pitino is not a fan of how things are playing out as the University of Louisville continues to be investigated for allegedly using prostitutes for recruiting purposes. The university implemented a postseason ban on the men’s basketball team Friday after learning more about the investigation, and the head coach is not happy about it.
Athletic director Tom Jurich’s comments Friday, there can be no doubt the university is in trouble. Speaking with local media, via Eric Crawford of WDRB 41, Jurich revealed the university had seen some results from the investigation which didn’t portend a rosy outcome:
“We found out yesterday that we had a problem,” Jurich said. “It was verified by Chuck [Smart] and the NCAA, so we want to deal with this in as rapid a way as we possibly can. Although it’s a very disappointing time, a very sad day for all of us, it’s extremely sad for our players . . . we want to do what’s right by the university, and by the NCAA. We support these actions, though they will be very painful.”
Despite the gut-punch ban, the Cardinals came out after being informed of the decision and utterly destroyed Boston College later that evening, 79-47.
The school features two fifth-year seniors, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who made decisions in the spring to spend their final year at Louisville for the sole purpose of participating in the NCAA tourney. This surely is harder on them than anyone else.
With a record of 19-4, just one-half game behind North Carolina for the ACC lead, the Cardinals would surely be a high seed in the tournament if not for the university’s self-imposed ban.
Not surprisingly, head coach Rick Pitino, who many feel is on his way out the door after this season, perhaps to coach UNLV, is upset about the school’s decision:
Pitino: “We should be penalized, no question about it. But not this team. But the NCAA didn’t make that decision. We made that decision."
— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) February 6, 2016
The key words here are “not this team.”
While he accepts the fact that there will surely be bans imposed by the NCAA after the investigation is concluded, Pitino clearly believes this year’s team shouldn’t be punished.
Pitino has maintained his innocence from Day 1 when Louisville stripper and escort Katina Powell came out with her book entitled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.” In it, she claims the university utilized her to supply prostitutes for the purpose of recruiting high school players to Louisville, a claim that sparked this entire investigation.
The head coach went on an extended rant in January, saying he was “pissed off” at the allegations and that none of them were true, so far as he knew. He also threw out some not-so-thinly-veiled accusations about the legitimacy of Powell’s claims.
Then after the ban was announced he made some more comments about the situation which indicate he’s still extremely frustrated, per Crawford. First, he addressed the decision itself:
“This is a decision that is as harsh as anything I’ve seen,” Pitino said. “But I’m a soldier in this army, and I will go along with Dr. Ramsey, and certainly there’s no one in life I have more respect for than Tom Jurich, so we will go along with this, and we will play our last nine games of the season as if they’re the last nine we’ll ever play the game.”
Secondly, Pitino made it known he’s being asked by lawyer Chuck Smart to not say what he’d like to say:
“Chuck had a conversation with me when I first said, absolutely, I had no knowledge of any of this . . . and I said I can’t find anyone who has any knowledge. And Chuck said, you can’t say that. You can’t go to the press conference with the ACC and say that, because you’re basically intimidating witnesses, because, how do you know that? Well, I just saw the point, and that’s why I didn’t go. Because I can’t just keep saying no comment, no comment, no comment. I think it’s foolish.”
This isn’t a story that is going to go away quickly, as much as Pitino wishes it would.
Given the way the university responded, and given athletic director Jurich’s comments, it appears the NCAA’s investigation is dredging up some information that could cripple the men’s basketball program, and potentially its head coach, for a while.