Louisville fired Rick Pitino Wednesday, according to ESPN, shortly after letting go athletic director Tom Jurich, who reportedly refused to fire Pitino himself. The axing follows yet another scandal for the Cardinals head coach, this one involving payments made to a recruit by Adidas officials in exchange for his commitment to the Louisville program.
Pitino’s career has been littered with tawdry scandals to go along with his on-court successes. His exit from Louisville, and possibly the college game, leaves him with two national championships—Pitino’s the only coach to do it at two different schools—seven Final Fours, and a coach of the year award for his 1987 season at Providence. There was never a better coach that could take whatever recruits he had, implement that enraging full-court press, and ruin any opponent’s afternoon; when he jumped to jobs at Kentucky and Louisville and had every five-star recruit at his disposal, he spent 25 years coaching some of the best defenses college basketball’s ever seen.
But Pitino never could keep his nose clean, and it doesn’t help that he used the same excuse every time he got caught. In a statement responding to yesterday’s news that his program was caught up in the FBI’s bribery investigation, Pitino held true to his character, blaming the findings on “a few bad actors” and claiming ignorance of the pay-for-play foundation college recruitment is built on.
Relative to the other potholes he’s struck over the years, any involvement he had in pay-for-commitment scheme should draw little more than a yawn. He also got caught having a brief affair at an Italian eatery, and was at the helm of the Louisville program when it was caught hiring escorts for high school athletes. Of course, Pitino insisted he knew nothing about the escorts, and was merely “guilty of trusting someone.” This has always been his method for explaining away scandals, and it always comes with a tidy reference to 9/11.
Pitino leaves the game as one of the best to ever walk the sidelines; it was because of those abilities that college basketball put up with the constant sideshows and deviancies that have followed him throughout his career. Apparently, yesterday’s dumbass scandal is the one that pushed him over the edge. Seems odd that it wasn’t the whole paying women to have sex with underage recruits, but who I am to play moral arbiter of a sport and college system that long ago lost any connection to common sense? In a brief spell of honesty, Pitino told folks in 2011 that he wouldn’t coach past the 2016-17 season—I can’t imagine he predicted why he’d have to pull out of the game, but for once in his life, the Cardinals coach came and went when he said he would.
Play us out, Bob: