You get what you pay for — and Rick Pitino isn’t worth the hassle.
He’s the reason why background checks are priceless. Because despite how a person may win you over once they get in the building for an interview, none of that matters if his past doesn’t check out.
Iona still ignored all the red flags that came along with Pitino and hired him to a five-year deal, rumored to pay just shy of $1.1 million annually, in March.
On Monday, the 67-year-old was back in the headlines for the trouble he caused at his old job as the head coach at Louisville, as the NCAA charged the school with a Level I violation, the biggest one that can be handed down. The university was also hit with three Level II violations, with the NCAA alleging that Pitino botched his “head coach responsibility when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”
It was all right there in Pitino’s background check, but Iona ignored it.
“We have no reason to believe that would happen,” Iona Athletic Director Matthew Glovaski said, when he was asked about the possibility of the NCAA punishing Pitino in the wake of an FBI investigation.
“Because we’ve had such a thorough interview process. ... Rick’s values aligned with the goals and values for the college. He was the right leader at the right time in his life for this job.”
Willful ignorance can be hilarious, especially as the upstate New York Catholic school is looking stupid for the second time in less than two months, over a man who has yet to even coach a scrimmage, let alone a game.
“We are aware of the report. The NCAA has a process to address the allegations. Prior to hiring Coach Pitino, we conducted extensive due diligence. We support Coach Pitino and expect him to respond within the process.”
This is when things really get funny, as Iona expects the same man who was directly responsible for 8 of 64 NCAA violations as a graduate assistant at Hawaii; who committed adultery when he had sex on a table at a restaurant with the wife of his equipment manager; ran a program in which on-campus parties were thrown for recruits and players in dorms where strippers and prostitutes were paid to “entertain”; had a national championship vacated; and was at the center of the FBI’s “pay-for-play” investigation into the sport,” to address this suitably?
“Today the NCAA released a NOA and alleges a Level II violation against me. I firmly disagree with this allegation and will follow the protocols in addressing this allegation through the administrative process,” Pitino said, per Forbes’ Adam Zagoria. “Due to NCAA bylaws on public disclosure on enforcement issues, I will have no further comment on this matter until it is resolved.”
Mind you, when Pitino took the Iona job he got on WFAN and said he deserved to be fired at Louisville, while also saying he was innocent.
This is who Rick Pitino is, and Iona still hired him. He’s a living example of how you can only get away with what people let you get away with… if you’re white.
However, as dumb as Pitino is making Iona look, it’s not like it’s the only school looking foolish. LSU and Arizona are still paying Will Wade and Sean Miller to be the head coaches of their basketball programs even after audio from FBI wiretaps were aired in a recent documentary in which the coaches discussed paying players.
But Iona isn’t a national athletic powerhouse like LSU or Arizona, it’s a private school with less than 4,000 students playing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
One of these things is not like the others, but that’s not stopping the school from risking it all.
When Pitino was hired, I wrote about how a black coach could never get as many chances as he has, as I expected Pitino to quickly turn the Gaels into a prominent mid-major before he was involved in another scandal. I figured then a black coach would be brought in to clean up his mess.
It feels like things could change sooner than expected, as Pitino might get fired before he even starts his new job.
And if, and when, that happens, Rick Pitino shouldn’t be the punchline.
Because as we’ve seen over the past few months, the brass at Iona are the only ones who are a joke.