Rick Pitino is the devil.
Sure, he doesn’t look like the devil, but as Albert Brooks pointed out in the 1987 movie “Broadcast News,” “Nobody is going to be taken in [by the Devil] if he has a long, red, pointy tail. Rather, “he will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he’ll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation . . . [and] he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important.”
In Pitino’s defense, devils are a dime-a-dirty-dozen in college basketball.
They are hidden in broad daylight on campuses across the nation, wearing silky suits and standing regally with arms crossed on the sidelines of basketball arenas filled with acolytes and admirers.
Pitino, along with Jim Boeheim, John Calipari and Roy Williams, constitute the contemporary Mount Rushmore of charm-all college basketball coaching charlatans.
Of course, Louisville’s Pitino has had remarkable success — 15th all time in career victories in Division I men’s basketball, he’s the only coach to lead three schools to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) and two schools to an NCAA title (Kentucky and Louisville ).
So why is Pitino in Couch Slouch’s crosshairs at the moment?
Because I’m tired of these smooth-talking flimflammers — none of whom you would trust as far as you could throw an inbounds pass — skipping to the bank while taking no responsibility for any impropriety in their programs.
Pitino’s time-tested mantra?
“See nothing. Say nothing.”
Pitino and his current outpost for misconduct, Louisville, say the coach is not accountable for the following:
From 2010 to 2014 — which includes the Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA title team — a basketball staffer hired escorts and strippers for parties with recruits and players at a campus dormitory.
In its investigation this year, the NCAA faulted Pitino for failing to monitor the staffer.
In response, Pitino pulls off a bit of high-level linguistic derring-do — he denies having any knowledge of the on-campus gentlemen’s club and denies he failed to monitor the situation, saying, “I over-monitor my staff.”
Anyhow, let’s give credit where credit is due: Someone at Louisville, monitored or otherwise, realized that offering recruits free sex with strippers was an excellent recruiting tool; the staffer even provided stacks of dollar bills to spread around to the ecdysiasts.
(Heck, when I was being recruited, if a journalism school had offered me lap dances instead of laptops, I would’ve crawled up the emergency lane of I-95 on all fours into its on-campus newsroom.)
Now, I am not an NCAA regulator and I have not seen the updated NCAA handbook, but my hunch is that sex with strippers falls under the category of “impermissible benefits.”
Then again, when Pitino had sex on a table in a Louisville restaurant in 2003 with a woman other than his wife, it did not violate the morals clause of his contract, so who’s to say?
(For the record, I am not judging Pitino on this minor lapse: It’s fine by me if he had sex on a table in a Louisville restaurant with a woman other than his wife, as long as he paid the check and tipped accordingly.)
Frankly, Pitino’s only charge is to find talented players and win as many games as possible. But, like many of his colleagues, he plays by his own rules and never admits wrongdoing.
At his first coaching stop, as an assistant at Hawaii from 1974 to 1976, Pitino was implicated in eight of the school’s 64 NCAA infractions that put the program on probation for two years. But when asked about the sanctions at a 1989 news conference, Pitino said, “There’s no one in this business with more integrity than Rick Pitino. . . . I didn’t make any mistakes at Hawaii, I don’t care what anybody says.”
At that same news conference — Pitino was head coach of the New York Knicks at the time — he said he was “not leaning toward taking the [Kentucky] job.”
He took the job one week later.
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