Rick Pitino has been placed on administrative leave on Wednesday as a result of an FBI investigation on corruption, which found that a player accepted $100,000 to attend the University of Louisville. Reportedly an Adidas executive was behind the payment to the player in order to get the prospect to attend a university that wore their company’s apparel. The player involved is thought to be Brian Bowen based on the time frame of the alleged scheme.
The Rick Pitino era at Louisville is over, and Louisville will assuredly be scrambling to get their team ready for the season. However, he did have a significant history at Louisville that is worth looking through for one reason or another.
Return to college basketball
After coaching Kentucky to a second straight National Championship game in 1997 (they won in 1996, lost in 1997), Pitino left for the NBA. It was a move that surprised most, as he had a talented team returning to Kentucky, who just happened to end up winning the National Championship.
Pitino had complete power of the Boston Celtics from 1997 to 2001, but was unable to build a winning team, amassing a 102-146 record. He resigned in January of 2001. This was his second stint in the NBA after leaving the New York Knicks to coach at Kentucky despite being successful with the Knicks.
With two NBA jobs that Pitino had grown frustrated with, he needed to find a new place to coach. Louisville had a legendary coach, Denny Crum, who retired after the 2000-2001 season and had a void. Pitino took the job and drew the ire of many Kentucky fans.
Successes at Louisville
It took a while to get the ball rolling at Louisville. The team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament until 2003 and couldn’t get past the second round of the tournament for the first two years they were able to make it under Pitino.
That all changed in 2005. Pitino had a stacked roster that was looking to do a lot of damage in the NCAA Tournament. The team was led by Francisco Garcia, Larry O’Bannon and Taquan Dean. They won Conference USA and were given a four seed by the selection committee. They ended up losing to Illinois in the Final Four, but getting Louisville to the Final Four for the first time since their 1986 championship was a huge step for the program.
The Cardinals struggled again in the next season, but that was due to inexperience. By 2008 and 2009, the team had reloaded with more rounds of recruits. Both of these teams were able to make the Elite Eight before losing to powerhouses North Carolina and Michigan State respectively. Both of these teams were led by Earl Clark and Terrence Williams, who both wound up getting shots in the NBA.
After two more down years of being knocked out in the first two rounds, Louisville was once again able to rebound. In 2012, they made the Final Four behind the play of Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and others. Most of the team returned with a mission for the 2012-13 season.
The team added Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell to the mix of returning talent, but lost Kuric and Chris Smith. Russ Smith and Siva both elevated their levels of play and created havoc on defenses. The Cardinals beat Michigan in the National Championship to win the school’s third title.
With a Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight appearance the next two years, Louisville didn’t quite have the talent to make it back to the Final Four, but the teams did feature good players like Harrell, Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear and Chris Jones.
Not much good had happened for Louisville since then. During this time frame, Pitino was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. He is the only coach to take three different Universities to Final Fours and has two National Championships.
Failures at Louisville
One of the biggest on-court failures (and there weren’t many), for Pitino was his success against the Wildcats. He played Kentucky 18 times as the head coach of Louisville and won only six games, none of which were in the NCAA Tournament. Both of the times they met in the NCAA Tournament Kentucky advanced, once on their way to a National Championship and once to an appearance in the NCAA Championship Game.
The record against Kentucky isn’t that bad, considering what the two programs are/were in the Pitino era, but even Pitino would’ve liked to do better against his old school. Unfortunately this is probably the lowest of importance in terms of the Pitino failures at Louisville.
The more personal problem that happened to Pitino during his Louisville tenure was an extortion case. It started when he had an affair with a woman, who turned out to be Louisville’s equipment manager’s wife. She didn’t have health insurance and needed an abortion so Pitino paid her $3,000 to have the abortion. She later tried to extort him, which is when Pitino reported the extortion.
While this was more of a personal issue, Louisville could have fired him for “acts of moral depravity or misconduct that damages the university’s reputation,”, which was allowed in his contract.
More recently, Louisville has had some other issues. In a book by Katina Powell, she alleged to have helped set up parties where incoming recruits could interact with strippers at a campus dorm. The goal was to entice recruits to come to campus. Powell even admitted to organizing “side deals” for sex between the strippers and recruits.
Louisville banned themselves from postseason play for 2016 because of these findings. Pitino was suspended for the first five games of ACC play this season, although that now looks like it won’t be happening. The Cardinals will have to go through recruiting limitations and fewer scholarships as well due to this specific scandal.
Louisville and Pitino Now
Now that the corruption case is being thrown on top of the stripper scandal, the NCAA may come down even harder on Louisville. This is pretty unprecedented, but severe penalties will likely be in store for the Cardinals. Fielding a competitive team will be hard for years to come.
Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich are both now on administrative leave and will likely be fired before too long. Louisville needs a new AD and head coach, but who wants these jobs? Especially for the basketball coach, it will be hard to win games with the sanctions, and they may be banned from postseason play for years. The program is now in shambles.
Not only is the program now in shambles, the 2013 National Championship may be vacated, along with all other results from Pitino’s tenure, depending on how far back the findings go for both these cases.
Now 65 years old, Pitino is likely done coaching. There can’t be too many programs that take him on with all the violations he has racked up during his tenure at Louisville. The NCAA could also ban him from coaching, much like they did Jim Tressel after Ohio State’s football program got in trouble.
His legacy has certainly taken a huge hit due to all of the scandals. Now he has still stated he didn’t know about the stripper scandal or the corruption case, but at the very least he failed to control his program that had multiple problems under his tenure.
While Pitino will always be remembered for his full court presses, his successes at Kentucky and Louisville and his inability to stick in the NBA, he will also be thought of as the man who was responsible for the basketball program when all of this went down.
The FBI investigation is ongoing, so watch for more big names to be implicated. Four other assistant coaches have been caught and there will assuredly be more to come.
Featured image by sportingnews.com.
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