ACC coaches Pitino, Golden in jeopardy

Alan Truex

For the second time, Pitino tainted by prostitution

Louisville’s Rick Pitino, one of basketball’s most successful coaches, is facing possible NCAA probation in the wake of allegations that his program provided prostitutes for use by recruits and players who were already on the team.

Katina Powell in her recently published book Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen, told of a sex-service operation that involved more than $10,000 over a four-year period.  She said she and other escorts were paid to have sex with Louisville basketball players and recruits

In the book she does not claim Pitino knew about the operation.  But the Escort Queen told the Indianapolis Business Journal that Andre McGee, former director of basketball operations, told her that Pitino was aware of what was happening.

“How can it be going on for years, that many people be involved, and Rick Pitino doesn’t know anything about it?  You have players that are very, very loyal to Pitino.  And if they thought anything was wrong and anybody was going to get in trouble, I’m pretty sure they would have gone back to Pitino.

“When I would ask Andre, ‘Does Pitino know about this?’ he would laugh and say, ‘Rick knows about everything.’”

Powell said she called the NCAA’s office in March to provide details of the scandal but that the organization did not want to talk to her.  She said she was told, “We can’t take outside stories.  He hung up. . . . They didn’t want to hear anything at all.”

She said she didn’t take her information to the University of Louisville because she did not trust the school.

Pitino denied knowing anything about the alleged prostitution.  He said he spoke with 15 staff members when he heard about the story in March, “and not one person knew.”

But ignorance by the head coach is no longer considered an excuse for malfeasance in any institution’s athletics programs.  NCAA rules now hold the head coach responsible for rules violations committed by the coach’s staff.

Thus, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and, just last month, Larry Brown of SMU were severely punished even with no evidence they had specific knowledge of irregularities.

There’s already concern in Louisville that the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship could be vacated, though that seems unlikely unless more wrongdoing is exposed.

What make’s Pitino’s job precarious is that this is not his first sex scandal.  In 2009, the 63-year-old coach, who is married with five children, admitted he had consensual sex with a woman who was trying to extort him.  He said he paid for her abortion.

It also does not help Pitino’s cause that his team is perceived as being in decline.  Louisville is regarded as far from being a lock for the NCAA Tournament field this season.


Not the banner year or Golden year that Miami wants

Rick Pitino is not the only embattled coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Switching to football, Al Golden of the Miami Hurricanes is in his second season of coaching under giant and expensive flying banners that advocate his firing.

Even when his team was undefeated, at 3-0, Golden was greeted — in Cincinnati — by a flying banner that blared:  “Fire Al Golden.”    

In fact, angry donors have been paying for such aerial displays at every Hurricanes game this season.  The practice actually began midway through the 2014 season as the team drifted to a 6-7 record. 

After losing 34-23 to a Cincinnati team that had been beaten by lowly Temple, the clamor against Golden increased.  There have been demands from alumni to bring back Golden’s predecessor, Butch Davis.

The alumni are longing for a return to the glory days of decades back, when the Hurricanes won five national championships, the most recent one being in 2001. Golden has been faulted by former players, most notably Michael Irving, for failing to develop talented athletes.

Golden, 46 and once highly sought by his alma mater, Penn State, is in his fifth year as ’Canes coach.  Thanks to the threat of Penn State, he’s under lucrative contract through 2020.  The Hurricanes may need to upset ACC and intrastate rival Florida State in Tallahassee this Saturday for Golden to keep his job even though a buyout will be costly.

Miami under Golden is 0-4 against FSU.   Expect his seat to become hotter by the end of the week.

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