Embattled Pitino dodges ACC Media Day

Alan Truex

Since at least the time of the ancient Greek wanderer Odysseus, nothing has been more alluring to men than free sex.  Now, if a more recent book is to be believed, the Louisville Cardinals have been running a bordello for recruits and even for basketball players already on their team.

Apparently and allegedly, once you’re admitted to the UL Escort Service, your free membership continues as long as you’re in good standing with the program.  Which is led  by the Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino.

Upon publication of Escort Queen Katrina Powell’s account of her sex-service business at the U, Pitino has been urged to resign by a few national media voices and local alumni.  Some of Pitino’s players reportedly have told NCAA investigators that the siren’s song of Madame Powell is essentially true.

This is not the first time Pitino has been linked to sex payments.  In 2009 he admitted to an extramarital fling with the wife of the equipment manager.  For extorting Pitino, Karen Cunagin Sypher is serving seven years in a federal prison in Alabama.

Pitino admitted to paying the woman $3,000, which she said was used for an abortion.

This testimony should have been highly embarrassing for Pitino, father of five who claims to be a devout Catholic.  But some men cannot be embarrassed, and Rick Pitino is one of those. 

He’s denied knowing anything about the madame’s involvement with his players.  But just in case reporters wanted to badger him, Pitino announced he would not appear at the Atlantic Coast Conference Media Day, in Charlotte on Wednesday.

Of course, the media responded with charges that “Slick Rick” is “gutless” and should be fired or at least suspended until the investigation clears him, if it ever does.

Pitino’s lawyers advised him to lay low.  Pitino complied, said he didn’t want to be “a distraction” which is every coach’s hobgoblin.   So even though he had been quite forthcoming about his celebrated ’09 affair, he passed on this prime opportunity for free promotion of this upcoming season, which begins, for him, Nov. 13.

Where will he be then?  Hangin’ on, he hopes.

“I will not resign and let you down,” he pledged to the alumni.  Faithful Christian that he is, “I do not fight these accusations but turn the other cheek.”

He posted on his website: “Let the investigators do their job and we will play basketball.” He wouldn’t be so steadfast if he were 33, but “at 63 it’s the wise thing to do.”

No need to mention that he’s under contract to the university for $50 million over the next decade.  He wouldn’t want to burn his bridge to social security.  You expect him to leave on his own volition?

Rest assured he has allies, a legion of Kentucky colonels, an army of loyalists that a general acquires after so many victories.

Few, if any, college basketball coaches have done better.  He won a national championship for Louisville after winning one for Kentucky — the first coach ever to win national championships for more than one school.

He’s not as big in Louisville as the Kentucky Derby, but he’s the next-biggest thing. Under his direction the basketball team has been the most lucrative in the country, reportedly earning $20 million a year.

In Louisville there’s an overriding sense of tolerance and mercy for coaches who stray, as long as the team wins and brings millions of dollars to the university.  Thus, the Cardinals’ football program is trusted to Bobby Petrino, who famously rode his motorcycle through the Ozarks with his mistress on his back.  Hey, he beat Notre Dame and almost beat Auburn and Clemson.

But not among Pitino’s supporters is the university’s president, James Ramsey.  In the wake of what we can call Escort-gate he issued a statement backing athletics director Tom Jurich, but making no reference to the basketball coach.

As accomplished as Pitino is, his team is trending downward – considered about an even bet to make the NCAA Tournament.  If the season unfolds as expected. Pitino’s support will wane.  He may be on a downward path he can’t turn around.


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