BOZICH | Does Rick Pitino's career rest with Katina Powell's story?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jon Krakauer, Laura Hillenbrand and Bill Bryson are three of the finest writers on the planet, magicians with words, storytellers with staying power and creators of instant best-sellers.
On Monday, there was another “author,” parked ahead of Krakauer, Hillenbrand and Bryson at No. 5 on the best-seller list for sports books at Amazon.com.
That would be Katina Powell.
Powell is the self-described escort who has put a full-court press on the University of Louisville basketball program with her stinging book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules, Basketball and the Escort Queen.”
Currently, Powell is winning. Her book is also the No. 1 seller for basketball books and No. 317 overall at Amazon. Rick Pitino’s career rests on the veracity of her story.
The book, at 104 pages, is shorter than the usual U of L basketball media guide. I mention that as a comparison because the cover photo appears to mimic the Cardinals’ 1986 basketball media guide with a hand – in 1986 it was forward Billy Thompson; here it is a woman with a red painted thumbnail – holding a basketball.
It’s not the cover photo triggering people to authorize $7.99 for the download. Calamity Jane would blush at the stuff inside.
Sex, sex and more sex. Powell alleges that former U of L staffer and player Andre McGee asked her to arrange for women to satisfy players and recruits at a basketball program that sent its coach into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and its team to the 2013 NCAA title.
No wonder Powell’s book ranks ahead of serious writing. The allegations are sensational, salacious and serious. This is a woman who admits to pimping her own daughters. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m still trying to comprehend that.
Next question: Are these stories true?
Will Powell turn out to be the next Richie “the Fixer,” Perry or Crystal Magnum?
In a world of 140-character judgments, nobody seems willing to sit out a couple of Twitter cycles for the answer. Perry and Magnum remind me that tapping the brakes is always the sensible course.
Perry, if you have forgotten, was New York mob associate and gambler who was pictured in a hot tub with three Nevada Las Vegas basketball players several months after the 1991 Final Four.
The story about his association with the Runnin’ Rebels players turned out to be true. That was the beginning of the end of Jerry Tarkanian’s coaching career at UNLV. He agreed to resign after the 1992 season.
Who was Crystal Magnum?
Great question. I had to search for her name and current life situation.
Magnum was the North Carolina woman who alleged that she was gang-raped by the Duke University lacrosse team in March 2006 after she said the players hired her to perform as a stripper.
Her story was eventually proven untrue, but not before Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign and the New York Times turned the story into a national scrum about gender, class, race, the justice system and other hot-button topics.
Magnum, for the record, is currently serving a 14-year sentence in North Carolina. Not for lying. She was convicted of second-degree murder.
Richie “The Fixer” Perry or Crystal Magnum, which one is Katina Powell?
Too soon to tell. All that is certain today is Powell is selling more downloads than Jon Krakauer, Laura Hillenbrand and Bill Bryson. The perfect snapshot of American culture, 2015.
I’ve tried to speak or communicate with several former U of L players. One has responded, via direct message.
“It’s crazy to me,” the player wrote in a message. “I don’t know where this has come from.”
You never saw the things that have been alleged?
“No, sir,” he wrote.
If there is significant truth to these sordid stories about strippers, sex, players and recruits, I can’t envision how Rick Pitino can – or should – survive.
A coach who micromanages the percentage of body fat of every player was not aware that somebody was allegedly bringing women into the dormitory he built to honor the memory of his late brother-in-law?
A program that promotes itself as focused on the name on the front, not the back, of the jersey was enhancing its recruiting pitch with a tug on a G-string?
Pitino survived and bounced back victoriously from his last scandal in 2010. This one, if true, is a career killer.
If it isn’t true?
Lawyers, administrators and public relations wizards won’t be able to repair the damage already done to the reputations of McGee, Pitino and the Louisville basketball program.
Those are the stakes. They’re considerable. And worth waiting for the complete story to be told.
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