Sports

Mark Story: Pitino should step down now

Rick Pitino should resign.

Even with Pitino's admission that he had an adulterous one-night stand in 2003 in a Louisville restaurant and subsequently paid $3,000 to the woman involved after she told him she wanted to get an abortion, it now seems likely that the U of L basketball coach can "tough" this out and keep his job.

Pitino has an unqualified public endorsement from the Louisville athletics director. He has a more restrained statement of support from the university president.

In an election where only two votes matter, Pitino has them.

During a Wednesday exercise in public damage control, an ashen Pitino apologized to his family and others for his "indiscretion" but vowed to coach at Louisville "as long as they will have me."

That is a vow he should abandon. Pitino should resign.

The reason is not because Pitino's actions with Karen Sypher (née Cunagin) six years ago were shockingly reckless for a public figure of long standing, though they were.

Nor is it because the payment of $3,000 to Sypher that is linked to an abortion will be especially vexing for a Roman Catholic coach working in a heavily Catholic city, though it could be.

It is not even because the possibility exists for more embarrassing details to come during Sypher's pending trial for allegedly trying to extort $10 million from Pitino.

The main reason Pitino should step aside as Louisville head coach is that it's the right thing to do for the family he has embarrassed.

Pitino said Wednesday his wife, Joanne, and their five children "make the sun rise for me every morning."

So how can the coach in good conscience subject them to the humiliation almost certainly awaiting this coming season should he remain as head coach at Louisville?

It is a dreary fact of life that college sports crowds, especially student sections, get ruder and cruder with each passing year.

The tawdry aspects of Pitino's "indiscretion" — sex with a stranger in a restaurant after closing time; a secret meeting allegedly discussing an abortion after Sypher claimed she was pregnant — are apt to be prime fodder on road trips.

You can almost hear the elongated chants of "Karrrenn Syphhhher" when Louisville takes the floor. You can't help but wonder what objects will be hitting the court when Pitino is introduced.

For a coach who has always had a case of rabbit ears when it comes to the peanut gallery, it is going to be hellish.

Surely, Pitino won't take his family on the road with him if he coaches next season. But you can bet they are going to hear about the indignities to which the coach — their loved one — is being subjected.

There is also the connection of Pitino's case to the abortion issue.

Next season, U of L is slated to play road games at four Catholic schools — DePaul, Marquette, Providence and St. John's. It's not out of the question that Pitino will become a lightning rod of our country's ever-combative abortion debate.

If you are Pitino, what do you have to gain by putting yourself and your family through that?

Rick Pitino is a proud man. It shows in the way he dresses to the way he carries himself to his penchant for authoring self-help books telling others how to live.

Yet, through his own carelessness, one of the most accomplished college basketball coaches of all time has made himself into a national punch line.

Resigning would eventually take the energy out of much of that abuse. It would protect the coach's high school-age daughter from at least some of it.

Pitino's exit would hardly be a disaster for U of L. In Ralph Willard, Louisville has an able head coach on its current staff who could run its program for one season.

An immediate Pitino resignation would allow Tom Jurich time for an orderly search for a high-quality successor.

It would also allow Pitino to get through the Sypher trial, drop from the limelight and give the public time to move on.

Which would allow his wife and his family the space to heal.

With time, Pitino could return to coaching, in the NBA or in college, and compose a better ending to his career.

When it comes to coaches who can win games, ours is an infinitely forgiving society. Wimp Sanderson allegedly hit a secretary while Alabama coach but returned at Arkansas-Little Rock.

Larry Eustachy lost the Iowa State head coaching job for partying with college girls but resurfaced at Southern Mississippi.

Mike Price gave up the Alabama football job without ever coaching a game for allegedly getting rowdy at a charity golf event. He got another shot at UTEP.

Whatever the morality of his actions, Pitino has broken no laws. Neither he nor his program stands accused of any NCAA violations.

But he has allowed his personal life to become an embarrassment to his employers and, even worse, his family.

Which is why Pitino should do now what he didn't do on an August night in 2003.

Think of his family first, then do the decent thing.

He should resign.

LOUISVILLE — University of Louisville president James Ramsey says it's time to move on after Rick Pitino's public apology for sex with a woman outside his marriage.

Ramsey said Thursday that the basketball coach is "our guy" and that he thinks the school will become stronger after Pitino's expression of remorse on Wednesday.

The coach's apology came after police documents became public showing Pitino admitted sex six years ago with a woman who is now charged in federal court with trying to extort money from the coach. Pitino said he plans to remain at Louisville for as long as the university allows.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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