Making official what it set forth to do three weeks ago, the Louisville Athletic Association’s board voted unanimously on Monday to fire men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino. Again, just to avoid any confusion, Pitino is not being fired for the other recruiting scandal, in which Louisville hired prostitutes for high schoolers, but the one that involves the FBI revealing his alleged role in helping high school athletes get paid by shoe companies
Pitino did not appear at the panel hearing, instead sending legal representatives, who made their case against the board’s decision to fire Pitino with “just cause.” The crux of the argument is that as Pitino denies any wrongdoing in association with the FBI’s investigation, Louisville cannot fire him and refuse pay him the $44 million he’s set to earn over the remainder of his contract. As he did during the prostitution scandal, Pitino argued ignorance and claimed that head coaches of major basketball programs cannot be held responsible for the shady actions of their employees.
“ULAA’s October 4, 2017 letter to me says that I should have known about any assistant coach or staff member’s complicity in the bribery matter,” Pitino wrote in his affidavit. “I reject that assertion. No reasonable level of oversight—including the oversight that President Postel and AD Jurich recommended and that I implemented—can guarantee that staff members will always act properly.”
Pitino’s lawyers made his case in a closed-door session with the the ULAA board for over an hour Monday afternoon. Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence, spoke with reporters following the meeting, during which he provided them with the key documents that make Pitino’s case (they can be read in full below), showing Pence and Pitino’s counter-argument.
Pitino’s legal team built his case for the millions he feels he’s owed on: a lie detector exam Pitino completed; an affidavit from Pitino; text conversations with former agent and then-AAU sponsor Christian Dawkins discussing Brian Bowen’s recruitment; Louisville’s director of basketball operations claiming Pitino was the “See Something, Say Something” guy; a denial from Bowen’s mother, who claims he chose the school because he liked the program; and an interview with David Padgett, who relayed the story of the time Pitino found out Bowen’s parents were staying in a swanky Louisville hotel and demanded to know how they paid for it. Despite 53 pages of legal arguments and exhibits, you really only need to know that Pitino and his lawyers are arguing the following:
If ULAA terminates Coach Pitino’s contract without proof of that deviation, it will be in breach of contract, and will be obligated to pay him the full balance due under his contract.
Unfortunately for Pitino, the board didn’t bite, instead opting to confirm Padgett’s salary—$400,000 in base salary plus another $400,000 for showing up to press conferences and other school-related media events, along with the normal additional sweeteners regarding postseason play and GPA—and deny Pitino’s claim to his remaining contract money. Piling on to his bad afternoon, Adidas, the company that allegedly worked with Pitino and Louisville to pay and bring in top recruits, dropped their contract with the former Cardinals coach once the ULAA’s decision was made official.
Of course, this is far from the end of Pitino’s scrap with Louisville—as evidenced by both his newfound sense of perfect timing and his lawyer’s packet of examples showing the former Cardinals coach to be a Good Man, Pitino does not want to go the Gary Andersen route; instead, he wants his money and his name to be cleared. He will undoubtedly sue the school over this, likely at the same time as fired athletic director Tom Jurich, and fight tooth and nail for what’s left of his honor and, lest you forgot, that pretty little pouch of coin.
Should the worst come to pass for Pitino and Louisville down him in court, he can at least take solace in the fact that he’ll always have Dickie V in his corner.
You can read Pitino’s counter to the ULAA board below.