Pitino calls news stories '100 percent a lie'

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comAugust 27, 2009 

University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino hastily called together members of the media Wednesday and demanded that they stop "reporting these lies."

An indignant Pitino chided reporters after excerpts of police interviews with Karen Sypher were aired on Louisville television stations. Sypher made explosive allegations of rape and payoffs in the tapes, written transcripts of which were made public earlier this month.

Prosecutors declined to charge Pitino, saying Sypher's account lacked credibility. She has pleaded not guilty to the extortion charges. A trial date has not been set.

Pitino said stories in various newspapers and on television about his encounter with Sypher were "100 percent a lie ... except what I told you."

The married father of five was referring to his earlier admission that he had a sexual encounter with Sypher in a Louisville restaurant in 2003.

Pitino expressed displeasure that the release of the tapes made news "on the day Ted Kennedy died."

And he asked fans to change the television channel or read something else in the newspaper the next time Sypher's allegations are reported.

Pitino said his lawyer, U of L officials and law enforcement officials all told him not to respond to the allegations that Sypher made, warning him, "Don't say anything."

But, Pitino told reporters: "Enough is enough. I am saying something. It's a lie.

"You've known that it's a lie. You've all known it. You haven't printed it.

"Report the truth," he told the group. "Do your investigative reporting. I know the truth is going to come out."

After Sypher was charged with lying and attempting to extort $10 million from Pitino, she told police that Pitino raped her twice.

"Wait for the trial, the truth will come out," the coach told reporters, adding that he was "blackmailed" seven months ago.

In a telephone call with a Louisville police detective on July 13 about the allegations, Sypher said her estranged husband, Tim Sypher, "was paid to marry me," according to police records.

Karen Sypher made additional allegations in the interviews, including that she was threatened after becoming pregnant from an encounter with Pitino. He said he gave her $3,000 after she told him she did not have health insurance to pay for an abortion.

Pitino denied the rape charges, telling police the two had consensual sex only once after hours at Porcini, a Louisville restaurant.

On Tuesday night, Pitino's attorney declined to comment on Sypher's allegations.

"Ms. Sypher is pending trial on federal extortion charges and lying to the FBI. We have no comment at this time on the evidence against her," Steve Pence said. "As you know, the Commonwealth Attorney has found her allegations to be 'void of credibility.' "

On Wednesday, Pitino reminded reporters of the prosecutor's statement. The coach described Sypher as "someone who lies ... to get their way and does so with little concern for others."

Sypher's allegations to police were repeated earlier this month in an interview with the New York Post under the front-page headline "Sex, Lies & Pitino."

At the press conference, Pitino referred to the press coverage in New York, where he's from and where he still has many relatives.

"My family and friends had to read this garbage," he said.

Tim Sypher, U of L equipment manager and longtime personal assistant to Pitino, married Sypher in 2004. The couple are in the process of divorcing and are each fighting for custody of their 4-year-old daughter.

"Tim Sypher has not come forward and told the truth" because of the custody case, Pitino said. He said Wednesday that he was not pleased that prosecutors had filed a motion asking that Sypher undergo a psychological examination.

"It bothers me very much because I need this thing to go to trial," he said.

Sypher's criminal attorney, James Earhart, said Wednesday that he would be filing a response to the motion early next week, but he declined to elaborate.

Earhart said Pitino "didn't say anything today that he hasn't said before.

"If he wants to hold press conferences, then he should answer questions," he said.

Pitino walked away from the microphone without taking questions.

The coach described the past seven months as "pure hell" for his wife Joanne and other family members.

And he said that he would "suffer" for his mistake.

But the coach said the U of L men's basketball program would not be hurt: "It hasn't hurt recruiting one bit. We will still bring in top-ten players. We will still run this program with great integrity."