WE didn’t want to see this. Rick Pitino’s coaching resume would show that he deserves better. The only coach to lead two schools to a NCAA championship (Louisville & Kentucky). The only coach to lead three schools to a Final Four berth (Louisville, Providence, & Kentucky). Yet, he will go down as that coach who’s off-court scandals ruined his legacy.
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43 years ago Rick Pitino commenced his coaching journey with a three-year stop at the University of Hawaii. Beginning as a graduate assistant, Pitino worked his way up to become the interim head coach in 1975, but even back then Pitino was under the NCAA’s watch. He was implicated in infractions that led to the university being placed on probation after violations that included giving out tickets for free food at McDonald’s and paying for an airfare for a player between New York and Honolulu.
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FROM there he was picked as the first assistant of the legendary Jim Boeheim who still coaches at Syracuse and has amassed over 900 collegiate wins. From there, Pitino went on to head coaching gigs of his own with successful tenures at Boston University, Providence and Kentucky mixed in between unsuccessful head coaching gigs at NBA level for the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. But it was his coaching time at Louisville that he will be most remembered for, arriving in 2001 and winning nearly 750 games in the past 15 seasons.
FOR all the accolades he achieved on the court though, Pitino’s involvement in some embarrassing and highly publicized incidents during his time at Louisville has effectively ruined his reputation. Back in 2009, Pitino was the ‘target’ of an extortion attempt from Karen Cunagin Sypher, the ex-wife of former equipment manager Tim Sypher. Pitino later admitted that in 2003 he and Cunagin had sex in a Louisville restaurant and she remains adamant she didn’t lie to federal agents and instead Pitino assured that she ended up behind bars for trying to drag him into this mess.
THAT wasn’t the worst of it for Pitino though. A ‘self-imposed’ postseason ban came into effect in the 2015-16 season as investigations into ‘StripperGate’. From 2010 to 2014 a number of sex escorts and strippers were used to visit prospects on their recruiting visits. Once again Rick Pitino pled innocent and Andre McGee became the fall guy. Sure, Pitino copped a five-game suspension for failing to monitor his basketball program, but once again he kept his job. This week enough was enough though.
ANY time the FBI is getting involved you know shit is serious and there is no escaping this time for Pitino. Allegations came forward stating that an Adidas executive conspired to pay $100K to a family of a top recruit for him to play at Louisville and to represent Adidas once he left school and turned pro. There is no official report but that alleged player is supposedly Brian Bowen, who committed to the school in June and has since been suspended.
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A household name in college hoops Pitino has been rumoured to pursue an NBA coaching spot, but after these latest claim, you have to think that the 65-year old’s coaching career is done. While he isn’t the only coach or school under investigation for these claims he is easily the biggest name and it isn’t a great look for the sport to see one of their top dogs wound up in a scandal like this. Instead of being remembered for the 770-269 (74.1% win/loss rate) coaching record and the hundreds of good things he did as a professional basketball coach, Rick Pitino will probably be remembered for his worst moments and he only has himself to blame.
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