Sidelines with John Clay

Rick Pitino fired: national media reaction

Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino arrived at Grawemeyer Hall on Wednesday for a meeting with the university’s interim president, Greg Postel. Louisville announced Wednesday that it has placed Pitino and Athletics Director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.
Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino arrived at Grawemeyer Hall on Wednesday for a meeting with the university’s interim president, Greg Postel. Louisville announced Wednesday that it has placed Pitino and Athletics Director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation. Courier-Journal/Associated Press

A sampling of national reaction to Rick Pitino’s firing:

Rick Pitino couldn’t avoid trouble forever, writes Ian O’Connor of “Rick Pitino turned out to be a colossal waste of talent. Forced out by Louisville on Wednesday, Pitino will not be remembered as a coach who made regular appearances in the Final Four. He will be remembered as the architect of a morally bankrupt program, and as a complete disgrace to his profession.”

Rick Pitino’s downfall is sad and self-inflicted, writes Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports. “It never should have ended this way for Rick Pitino. Never should have ended with him getting out of a silver Lexus SUV on Wednesday morning, rushing up the steps of Grawemeyer Hall, Louisville’s administration building, chased by reporters shouting questions about whether he was being fired. Five minutes later Pitino was out and back down the steps, into the Lexus and gone, perhaps never to be seen on this campus again.”

What’s your college hoops team’s future? asks Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. “Welcome to college basketball season, where we ponder who’s going to the Final Four and who’s going to prison. September’s end brings media days and late-night practice pageantry to college basketball. But the head-spinning revelation Tuesday of a federal investigation that has charged 10 coaches, advisors and others with lying and using their influence to steer prospects to specific schools in a corruption scheme has unmoored the sport.”

Rick Pitino’s legacy is success and scandal, writes Eric Crawford of “No one wants a finish like this one, least of all a prideful Hall of Fame basketball coach who fashioned one remarkable comeback after another, from the death of an infant son to the Final Four in 1986, from 35 down in the second half to victory at Kentucky in a game at LSU in 1994, from 20 down at halftime of an Elite Eight game to the Final Four in 2005, from the shame of an extramarital affair and an extortion scandal breaking in 2010 to the NCAA title in 2013.”

Rick Pitino is out and the rest of college basketball is sweating, writes Mark Bradley of the AJC. “The first sentence of Rick Pitino’s Wikipedia page — and his is a bio that has undergone many revisions – got rewritten Wednesday. He’s no longer the coach who was fastest and first to grasp the power of the 3-point shot. He’s no longer the man who lifted Kentucky from purgatory. He’s no longer the only guy to have won national championships at separate schools. Yes, he’s technically still all of the above, but that won’t be the first thing we think about when we think about Rick Pitino.”

Pitino can only blame himself, says Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News. “On a late July day seven years ago, Rick Pitino sat in a courtroom on a witness stand. We’ve all seen this sort of circumstance so many times on TV and movies that it seems familiar — and yet it is a relatively uncommon experience: If you wind up sitting in a chair with a judge over your shoulder and fielding questions from attorneys representing the complainant and defendant, it’s quite possible something has not gone well in your life.”

Rick Pitino’s career ends in infamy, writes Seth Davis of The Athletic. “Rick Pitino began his Hall of Fame coaching career in 1974 as a graduate assistant at the University of Hawaii. Following his nondescript career as a point guard at the University of Massachusetts, Pitino had to fly across the continent and a massive ocean just to get a job. Once he landed in Honolulu, however, he made his mark. He proved to be a dogged recruiter, a meticulous planner, and a workaholic — a rising talent with limitless ambition.”

Scandal finally finishes Pitino at Louisville, writes Lindsay Schnell of USA Today. “You’ve gotta hand it to Rick Pitino: It’s impressive he survived this long. Not too many coaches could survive not one, but two, sex scandals, but that’s how it works when you’re one of the best basketball minds in the game. Pitino resurrected two programs in the basketball crazy state of Kentucky, leading both the Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals to NCAA titles. And now he’ll depart in the midst of one of the biggest scandals in college sports history, a black mark on a sterling career.”

Rick Pitino had to go this time, writes Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star. “This was 10 or 15 years ago, but it has echoes that reach today. Bear with me. No, better yet, come with me. The phone is ringing. This was another life for me, working for, but the same sorry world for college basketball. The cheating you’ve been reading about all week, allegations against schools from coast to coast? It was happening 10 years ago, too, and everyone close to the sport knew about it. In those days coaches laughed about it, which is a story I’ll tell you another time. Because right now, we need to get to the phone.”

Rick Pitino is a product nobody should want, says Michael Rosenberg of “Rick Pitino committed eight NCAA violations, then misled the NCAA, and it was bad enough and ugly enough that the NCAA recommended the school disassociate itself from him. This was in 1977. Pitino was an assistant at Hawaii. If you’re surprised today … well, where have you been for the last 40 years?”

Pitino’s ouster leaves Louisville dazed from scandal fatigue, write Chuck Culpepper and Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post. “Rick Pitino, the masterful coach first lured to this basketball-besotted state in 1989 to heal somebody else’s scandal, finally toppled 28 years later Wednesday in the gusts of the latest scandal in his own program. By the time the University of Louisville placed him on unpaid administrative leave and shut off his access to a promising 17th season — he previously coached the University of Kentucky from 1989 to 1997 — it left a city woozy with scandal fatigue.”

The inside story on how corruption and fraud came to college basketball, by Mark Schlabach of “On May 6, 2016, Louis Martin “Marty” Blazer III, a Pittsburgh-based financial adviser, was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with wire fraud and accused of siphoning $2.35 million from the accounts of several professional athletes to invest in movie projects and make Ponzi-like payments. According to the SEC’s complaint, when its examiners uncovered the unauthorized withdrawals and asked Blazer to explain them, he lied and produced falsified documents in an attempt to hide his misconduct.”

What’s next for Bruce Pearl and Auburn? asks Matt Norlander of “Louisville’s Rick Pitino has been put on administrative leave, with the understanding that he’ll eventually be officially fired. Will another head coach suffer the same fate? In the aftermath of the FBI’s world-rattling investigation into bribery and fraud in college basketball recruiting, one coach in particular has been caught in the middle: Auburn’s Bruce Pearl.”

Is the charade finally over for NCAA head coaches? asks Peter St. Onge of the Charlotte Observer. “Rick Pitino is gone at Louisville. His athletic director, too. It’s not a surprise, given Pitino’s splotchy history and the bombshell fraud and bribery allegations the FBI announced Tuesday involving college basketball. Those charges have prompted a lot of breathless speculation about how the gig may now be up in college sports — how the FBI’s investigation will expose an underbelly that’s been winked and shrugged at for decades.”

Rick Pitino wanted it all and it cost him everything, writes Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. “The stories were as plentiful as they were legendary, and it helped that most of them were true. No matter whom you talked to, the people in and around Rick Pitino’s orbit, it would always go back to the same thing: the drive, the work ethic, the refusal to believe that anything was impossible as long as you put in the hours.”

Miami faces a new challenge: scandal, writes Greg Cote of the Miami Herald. “Anticipation for University of Miami men’s basketball was running beyond high, with the Hurricanes and their fans believing that the coming season could be the greatest in program history. UM is expecting its highest ranking ever in The Associated Press preseason poll soon to be released. The Canes’ goal — to advance beyond the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen for the first time — does not seem outlandish.”

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