Former University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino did not know about a $100,000 Adidas payment to the father of former recruit Brian Bowen, an ex-Adidas employee testified Thursday, according to media reports.
T.J. Gassnola, who is now a government witness in the college basketball corruption trial, testified that while he was a consultant for Adidas, he did not tell Pitino about the scheme to pay for prized recruit Brian Bowen to attend Louisville, the Courier-Journal reported.
Bowen signed with Louisville in June 2017 but was suspended from the team after his name was brought up in the FBI’s investigation that September. He subsequently left the university.
Pitino has been adamant that he had nothing to do with the scheme to lure Bowen to Louisville. Despite his claims, Pitino’s contract with the university was terminated in October 2017 and he has not been coaching since then.
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According to Gassnola, only four people knew about payments to Bowen’s father: himself, agent Christian Dawkins, and Adidas executives James Gatto and Merl Code, according to New York Times’ Adam Zagoria. Dawkins, Gatto and Code are all on trial in New York.
Gassnola said former Louisville assistant coach Kenny Johnson may have known about the payments, but Dawkins said Johnson did not. The father of Bowen, Brian Bowen Sr., testified last week Johnson paid Bowen’s family $1,300, according to tweets from Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel.
Earlier this week, the courtroom heard wiretapped conversations between Code and Dawkins regarding Pitino’s involvement, Wetzel reported.
“He does know something,” Code is hearing saying, discussing Pitino. “He doesn’t know everything ... plausible deniability.”
Gassnola said Thursday he texted Pitino the day arrests were made in the federal case last year. He said he wasn’t sure why he texted him, according to the Associated Press.
“I was just looking for information, and I instinctively reached out to him,” the witness said.
He also admitted Thursday to making payments to four more players: Kansas’ Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr. and future No. 1 NBA Draft pick Deandre Ayton to play at Arizona, the Courier-Journal reported.