In his first public comments since his dismissal in the wake of the FBI college basketball corruption investigation, Rick Pitino remained defiant and maintained his innocence in an interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas that aired Wednesday night.
“I’m going to answer to God. And I know the truth,” Pitino said in the interview, which Bilas said on social media lasted an hour, but which was edited to just over eight minutes.
Pitino, fired with cause Monday by the Louisville Athletics Association, said again that he couldn’t possibly know what Adidas and his assistant coach were alleged to have done. And he again rejected the notion that he should have known, as many critics have argued.
“I don’t answer to those people,” Pitino said of those who asserted that he should have known. “I answer to my players, who have been over the top in support of me. I answer to my assistant coaches and my family. But the one person you have to answer to in life is God. And I sit here today and tell you: Should I have known that somebody walked into a hotel room? I don’t see how I could possibly know.”
A large part of the FBI complaint involving Louisville revolved around a hotel room discussion that included an unnamed Cardinals assistant and an FBI informant over payments to a recruit who later signed with Louisville.
Pitino also explained why he chose to sue Adidas, which also severed ties with him in the wake of the scandal.
“I felt they were largely responsible for what’s gone on,” he said. “They took my love and my passion away from me. Not all of them. There were other reasons, one being one of my coaches, (they) took my love of my life away, besides my personal family.”
Pitino said Adidas had very little contact with him and his players on a day-to-day basis. He said his contact with James Gatto, one of the Adidas executives charged in the probe, amounted to “two or three times” a year.
Pitino acknowledged that he should be held responsible for his hires. “I take ownership of who I hired and take full responsibility for that.”
Pitino said his lie detector test results prove that he’s telling the truth, but he said that in his eyes, he already has been vindicated.
“Not by a lie detector test,” he said. “Just by the text messages my players have sent me, the phone calls from my assistant coaches. I’ve been vindicated in my eyes. Nobody’s been arrested on my staff.”
Will he be clear of any charges?, Bilas asked.
“One thousand percent. Because I know the truth,” Pitino said.
He said he harbored no ill will toward the University of Louisville. He blamed its board of trustees for condemning him before all the facts of the case are known.
“To me, this board of trustees, locking me out of my office, telling me I’m dismissed before facts came out. Let it develop,” he said. “They’re a board hired by the governor to deal with the president situation a while ago. They’re not the University of Louisville that I know.”