Rick Pitino shouldn't lose his job.
But here's the real question: Can he still do his job?
Can the Louisville basketball coach sit in a prospect's home and convince Mom, Dad and Grandma that he is the best person to mold their young player's life?
Can he retain the respect and confidence of the school's supporters, many of whom might have a problem with its most famous representative paying, according to the police report, $3,000 for a stranger's abortion?
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Can he survive the verbal slings and insulting signs that will surely come his way when the Cards go on the road next season, especially to the many Catholic school gyms of the Big East, and one very large Lexington arena where the fan base considers him "Traitor Rick"?
After all, Pitino's admissions that he had sex with Karen Sypher and supplied her funds for an abortion took a tawdry tale from commonwealth curiosity to national bombshell.
But first, let's be big boys and girls here. Rick Pitino is not the first coach to commit adultery. Nor will he be the last. Those who still believe the coach-as-moral-high-ground fantasy need a cold splash of reality. Coaches are humans. Some are respectable. Some are reprehensible. Same as it ever was.
So, despite the morals clause in his contract, Pitino shouldn't be pink-slipped just because he had sex with a stranger at Porcini. Nor should he be fired for funding an abortion. You can argue the morality of those acts, you can't argue the legality.
And is there anyone besides the most jaded of opposing fans who doesn't question the rape allegations given the holes in Sypher's account?
But in the real world of big business and big money, there are serious doubts about whether Pitino can continue to do his job at the highest level.
In actuality, Pitino is not a basketball coach. He's the CEO of a large, multi-million-dollar corporation. And, like every other CEO, he needs to produce results, i.e. victories, championships. To do so, he needs (a) the confidence of his stockholders, in this case the deep-pocket donors who help pay the freight, and (b) the top-quality talent that leads to on-the-floor success. The two are intertwined.
And even before Tuesday's dirty details became public, you could see cracks in the Cardinal foundation. Jeremy Tyler, a highly touted 6-foot-11 center who had committed to Louisville, announced he would play overseas instead. Just last week, top prospect Fab Melo, a 7-foot center from Florida via Brazil, rejected favored U of L for Syracuse.
True, most college players want to know one thing only — who can help them get to the NBA. But the guess here is that the negative effect of the Pitino/Sypher soap opera will cause many star recruits to look for a more drama-free environment. Pitino isn't the only good coach out there, you know.
Then there's the abortion angle. Abortion is legal in this country. It's also the most polarizing issue we have in this country (I found it interesting that the headline on a New York Times story read, "Pitino Reportedly Admits to Paying for Abortion"). The Catholic Church is clear where it falls, and the Catholic Church owns a prominent presence in Louisville.
Little wonder then that Pitino's attorney, Steve Pence, was practicing damage-control Wednesday. Pence insisted Pitino believed he was paying Sypher for medical insurance, not an abortion. To believe that is to believe Pitino has a "Father of the Year" plaque in his immediate future.
There's another twist of irony here. Pitino's latest book, on shelves now, is titled Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0. It tells how you can can "rebound" from life's harshest setbacks.
Looks like Pitino's toughest chapter is yet to play out.