Accountability is not exactly a word that comes to mind when thinking of former University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino in the scandals that have overtaken the Cardinals men’s basketball program.
The Hall of Fame coach has been one of the best on the court. Off the court is a different story, though.
Rick Pitino Needs to Take Responsibility for Louisville Scandals
It goes back further than the FBI scandal or even the Katina Powell scandal.
Pitino’s lack of accountability for the scandalous occurrences dates back to 2009 during the extortion trial of Karen Sypher, a woman that Pitino had an extramarital affair with inside a Louisville restaurant. On the stand, testifying in the case, Pitino said that the only motive from the beginning was to blackmail him. This shows him failing to take accountability for his own role in the situation and playing the victim of someone else out to get him.
Later on, it was the NCAA that was out to get him in the prostitute scandal.
Along the way, through every twist and turn, from Sypher to the FBI scandal that Louisville became involved in, Pitino has taken every opportunity to pass blame on someone else while absolving himself and contending that he always ran a clean program.
“I feel awful for what has happened,” Pitino said. “I have run a clean program all my life.”
Obviously that is hard to believe when the program just had their 2013 National Championship revoked for impermissible benefits. They will also likely be in the crosshairs of another investigation from the NCAA involving the recruitment of Brian Bowen.
Pitino Playing the Blame Game
Pitino has somehow managed to attribute all his misdeeds to someone else or some other entity.
Sypher’s only goal was to blackmail him, so do not blame him for having an affair. The prostitute scandal was the fault of Andre McGee. McGee, a lower-level assistant, would have had to use around 1/3 of his income to pay for the parties. The FBI scandal was because of Adidas, as they conspired to ruin his reputation.
Pitino has blamed the NCAA for the scandals, all the while preaching accountability when it seems he lacks a fundamental understanding of what that means. He is calling press conferences to maintain his innocence and continue to play the victim.
Pitino is going on the radio, comparing himself to Jerry Tarkanian. He is stating that the NCAA forcing the University to take down their championship banner is “unconstitutional.”
Pitino is talking about how it was wrong for the university to remove him before he could “bring in the greatest recruiting class of my career with two five-star recruits. Never mind that the FBI has wiretap evidence of money being paid for one of those.
Taking Responsibility is the Right Thing to do
At this point, it is hard to imagine Pitino owns up to his prior misdeeds.
He called a press conference in New York following the announcement of the NCAA’s denial of Louisville’s appeal, and encouraged them to attempt to get an injunction and take it to court. Pitino implored UofL officials to continue an expensive legal battle. All of that while suing that same university for the $35-36 million remaining on his contract after he was fired.
But no time is better than the present for Pitino to own up to the mistakes. He needs to admit fault. That means more than recycling the same old “I hired the wrong guy” talking point that he has continued to bring up.
As a Kentuckian, Rick Pitino has seen a rise and fall of great magnitude in this state. Once beloved by Kentucky and Louisville fans, he is hard-pressed to find a supporter in either fanbase. Maybe Pitino taking action that has been needed for a long time helps him save face after and he can move on. But maybe it is too late and it has no effect.
But for someone who has few supporters on his side, it is never too late to do the right thing.
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 09: Head Coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals directs his team against the Duke Blue Devils during the quarterfinals of the ACC Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 9, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)