In my basketball program, we promote a family atmosphere. Okay, maybe the atmosphere got a little too family, when my director of basketball operations modeled himself on a father figure who once got blackmailed for having sex on a restaurant tabletop. But our team is based on relationships and trust, so you should trust me when I say that I didn’t know a thing about any strippers and prostitutes. Just in case you don’t take my word for it, here is my nephew, who can vouch for me. He says I didn’t know.
I am The Coach, and I admit that The Coach usually knows everything. But in this case, I didn’t know anything. The only person who knows anything about any strippers entertaining recruits at Louisville is my former grad assistant coach. Whom I admit I know. But I don’t know what he knows. Only he knows what happened in that dormitory, which I admit, is named after my late brother-in-law.
If any of these allegations are true — and I want to emphasize “if” — there is only one person who can say I didn’t know about it, and that is my former coach, who isn’t saying anything. No one else knows the whole truth — except for the players in the dorm and the madam who employed her own daughters as strippers, making this truly a family affair, and the recruits who took the young women into other rooms, to do family things with them.
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Of course, I suppose anyone who looked at the dormitory security camera footage would know the truth. And of course whoever gave a graduate assistant the $10,000 cash to pay the strippers, unless he paid it out of his own savings from the goodness of his heart, to help out her family.
In my program we’re all about doing the right thing. There is only one person who can solve this, and he needs to come out and tell his teammates, his university and the NCAA that I, who made him a part of such a close and special family, didn’t know a thing. If something wrong was done, he is the one who has to own up to it, not me. Personally, I don’t really know him any more, even though I called him the other day. If I have a message for my former grad assistant, whose actions I know nothing about, it’s this: It’s time to give back to the family.
No other coach, player or trainer knew anything about any of this, especially not me. Obviously something happened in that dorm, from what people are saying on ESPN, the strippers who danced at two dozen parties over four years and the five players who would talk to ESPN only anonymously for fear of reprisals from the Louisville family. I am dedicated to finding the whole truth of the matter. Which is why I texted my nephew, who used to live in the dorm, the one I named after his father. He said, “I never saw a thing.”
You see, I am all about relationship-based coaching. A conventional coach just focuses on winning. But a relationship-based coach builds an entire culture. A conventional coach asks, what can I do to get better? A relationship-based coach like me asks, how can I score?
If my message of family went awry, I don’t know how. I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Did I do anything wrong here?” And the answer is, “No, handsome.”
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But just to be sure — in case maybe I have a blind spot — I also asked my son. He said, “100 percent, without a doubt,” that I didn’t know a thing.
And my dog. I also asked my dog. He has absolutely no knowledge of these happenings that may or may not have happened.
I continue to be saddened by these incidents, if they happened (to be clear, without my knowledge).
The actions of a few do not represent the character of our community, our family, our team or our university. Even if they turned it into a porn theater.
I have no intention of resigning. What would that accomplish? That’s the coward’s way out. I will continue to coach under the terms of my contract, to diligently supervise the actions of the staff I’m responsible for, in my own fatherly way, and to support the core values of our fine academic institution. Anyway, my contract runs through 2026, and if my athletic director didn’t invoke a “moral depravity” clause back in 2009 when I was the target of an extortion attempt by someone with whom I’d had extramarital sex, he’s not going to do it now. He says I “absolutely did not know” a thing about these allegations.
To preserve the integrity of the investigative process, I will withhold further comment until it is concluded. Except to say we will get through this my way — the family way.
For more by Sally Jenkins, visit washingtonpost.com/jenkins.