Another weekend out of town. Too bad, too, now that Fresno is experiencing its best weather. This blog will return on Tuesday, October 27.
Whether or not you believe Rick Pitino when he claims he had no idea what was going on during (the illicit parts of) the recruiting visits to the U of L largely depends on whether or not you know him. Since I’ve known Rick since he was a junior at UMass (and I was a graduate assistant at fellow Yankee Conference member Vermont), my guess (and that’s all anybody can honestly say) is that he didn’t.
Wait, you say, how about his boast to a Cardinals’ booster group that, “…if one (of our players) has a beer downtown, I hear about it the next day?” First of all, no matter how omnipresent head coaches claim to be, they’re not. Head coaches like to think they know everything that goes on in their programs. As a 30-year assistant at nine Division I schools, I assure you that’s not the case. Plus, in today’s version of college basketball, and all the responsibilities that fall on a head coach, it would be impossible. A good sound bite, but just something that’s untrue.
The scandal of his extramarital affair from years ago doesn’t help his image in this case – or any other, for that matter – but it has nothing to do with what’s being reported now. Of course, committing adultery is wrong but, believe me, if every head college basketball coach who had an affair while while he was married was arranging or condoning the use of prostitutes during official campus visits, there wouldn’t be enough prostitutes to go around. Pitino’s indiscretion was a mistake and if you want to judge him as a poor husband or role model, do so. Regarding that affair, he had to answer to his wife and family. Beyond that, it’s old news.
Rick Pitino, although he was a very good player, was born to coach. And he’s had quite a career, taking teams from each of the four colleges he’s coached to the NCAA Tournament. He didn’t do it while luring kids to those institutions by using hookers. Whether he’s speaking at a clinic or just discussing the game with fellow coaches in between summer league contests, it’s apparent he’s fascinated – and fascinating – on the subject of the game of basketball. In terms of “risk-reward,” there’s no way he would allow what has been written in the book by Katina Powell to take place if he knew. When you speak with Pitino, you realize he’s a very bright guy – and, while he’s definitely not beyond trying to “get a call” from a referee, I refuse to believe, with the combination of all that’s at stake, coupled with his innate knowledge of hoops and self-confidence as a coach, that he would allow, or even turn a blind eye, toward the seedy activities that are being reported.
So why was the book written? Is cashing in on a juicy story the sole motive for Powell? After reading her quote, other issues were revealed. “I did everything to make those guys sign,” said Powell. “And I felt like, well yeah, I brought ‘em. Look at what I had to do to get these guys here. I mean, they didn’t care anything about U of L. They didn’t … it was just U of L. It wasn’t nothing spectacular to them. So when you offer what you offer, then of course … I’ll sign on the line. If this is what they’re giving, they’re providing. Sure.”
Hold on, now. As implausible as Pitino’s denial might sound to many skeptics (especially those who truly want to believe he orchestrated all of this), what I got out of the madam’s mini-speech is, somewhere along the way, she wasn’t given the credit she craved for such a highly successful program, i.e. a booster scorned. “I brought ‘em. Look at what I had to do to get these guys here,” she claimed. Not even the use of the word we. After all, Katina, who really “put in the work?”
Next statement for analysis: “…they didn’t care anything about U of L. They didn’t … it was just U of L. It wasn’t nothing spectacular to them.” Nothing spectacular? 1) Louisville is one of only nine programs in the history of college buckets to win multiple national championships under different coaches? One of nine isn’t spectacular? 2) Rick Pitino is the only men’s coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to a Final Four and the only coach to lead two different schools to an NCAA National Championship (how could he have been so successful at those other schools – or does he have a book listing madams in all the college cities in America)? Pretty spectacular, I’d say. 3) He is an accomplished author, speaker and a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame. At least somewhat spectacular (certainly when compared with other coaches’ resumes). 4) Over 30 of his former players and assistants are or were head coaches. Over 30 - from a coach’s perspective? Spectacular. I shudder to think of Powell’s definition of spectacular. A mother who knew (encouraged?) her daughters to have sex for money, i.e. they were prostitutes – with her full knowledge and support. Maybe everybody wants their kids to be pros. Spectacular indeed.
Let’s critique her comments a little further. “So when you offer what you offer, then of course … I’ll sign on the line. If this is what they’re giving, they’re providing. Sure.” The coaches are the only people who are allowed into a prospect’s home for the purposes of recruiting. What, exactly, does Powell think their pitch is? That their child will get laid on his visit? And what if another coach gave the same spiel? How could the parent(s) help the boy make his decision?
Believe it or not, this post is not simply to discredit Katina Powell as much as it is to illustrate how out of touch she is with why a prospect chooses to sign with a school – and the death wish Rick Pitino would have to have to allow such shenanigans. Her line of work – and only point of reference – is focused on her profession. Apparently, she takes a great deal of pride in it. Not only does she believe strippers and sex is the compelling reason for a person to select a college but she is so enamored with her profession that she proudly employs her daughters.
Rick Pitino is as relentless a competitor as there is but, with his chosen profession on the line, and all the fame and fortune that goes along with it, I can’t believe he would knowingly go along with such a sordid scheme – one that if he, in fact, did condone, would take away his livelihood and forever ruin his reputation.
Beyond all of this is something that has bewildered me since this story hit the news. As a graduate assistant at the Vermont, I was paid $1,000 plus tuition for the year; at Washington State, I made $1,550 plus tuition (plus $2,000 for camp) for each of two years, and at Oregon I got nothing (they got us outside jobs, e.g. working at a sporting goods store for $2.50/hour, at a lumber yard for $3.75/hour and, finally, the mother load, painting apartments at $4/hour). My question is, “Where does a graduate assistant get $10,000 for that kind of entertainment?”
I think that when the smoke clears, where Andre McGee got that money is going to shed light on this saga. It comes down to the advice Woodward and Bernstein got nearly 50 years ago:
“Follow the money.”