BOZICH | The last word on scandal belongs to NCAA, Louisville - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | The last word on scandal belongs to NCAA, Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bob Knight once came this close to stranding me in Iowa City because I was late for a bus. The first time I interviewed Knight, he packed his answer to my second question with expletives and told me to get in my %$#*@ car and drive to West Lafayette if I wanted to know something about $#@%^ Purdue.

Thanks, coach.

Charlie Strong, Howard Schnellenberger, D. Wayne Lukas, Eddie Sutton, Cynthia Kragthorpe, Dale Brown and others have expressed their biting disagreement with things I have written.

I file those encounters under occupational hazard. I'm a columnist, not a fan.

I was neither surprised nor upset Friday that University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino singled me out for criticism when he vented about the coverage of the Katina Powell sex scandal as well as his post-game behavior following U of L's loss to Kentucky in Rupp Arena last Saturday.

I've known Pitino was quite angry about my opinions since Saturday night. It's one reason I attended the press conference on a holiday. I was prepared to hear from the coach.

I've written about Pitino for nearly three decades, since he brought his Providence team into Freedom Hall for the 1987 NCAA Tournament. I've been there for his greatest victories and his most distasteful defeats, his personal triumphs and occasional failures. I've heard him upset before. He called to disagree with something I wrote during the previous U of L scandal. 

Life went on. I've written dozens more columns about him and his program. He's answered my questions. I've complimented him on his achievements and criticized his clunkers. I've strived to keep the relationship professional. Part of the job.

But here's the primary part of my job: Sharing my opinion.

Here are my thoughts on the developments of the last week: Pitino is absolutely entitled to his opinions on the NCAA investigation, Katina Powell, media coverage, his obligation to appear at press conferences, critical sports columns and other developments that have obviously upset him. 

I'm also entitled to mine.

As I wrote in October, I believe the mess at U of L is one he won't be able to fix. Perhaps he didn't know about the tawdry encounters alleged in Powell's book. He should have known -- at least something.

This is a hands-on coach, not a detached CEO. Pitino directs the program. He built the dorm where the Louisville players live to help monitor and protect their environment. His attention to detail is one quality that has made him a Hall of Famer.

I also believe he could have answered questions after the Kentucky game last Saturday for five minutes. Most of the questions would have been about the game. Say "No comment," to the ones that were not about Damion Lee's final shot or Tyler Ulis's three-point shooting. Move on.

Instead, he detracted from the marvelous game with his silence as well as with his puzzling post-game gesture. His behavior introduced those stories to the news cycle.

Here is my final takeaway: Neither my columns nor Pitino's response will determine the final outcome of this story. 

The NCAA will make that call. U of L president Dr. James Ramsey will assist. So will U of L athletic director Tom Jurich.

There's an official procedure for resolving complicated situations like this. This procedure is not close to complete. Pitino said on Friday that he had not been interviewed by the NCAA and that he did not expect a report from that organization until July. The facts are still being collected, assembled and analyzed. 

Pitino is doing what I would expect any coach to do. Attack the veracity of Powell's story. Emphasize the gaps and exaggerations. Minimize the text messages in Powell's book as well the damning story at ESPN.com where five former U of L players or recruits admitted to encounters with Powell's strippers.  Defend, defend, defend.

Even Pitino can't defend or deflect everything -- as he admitted again Friday.

Were there encounters between U of L players and recruits with Powell's escorts at Minardi Hall?

Pitino has never denied that. He did not deny it Friday, saying, "And I believe in the way we do things, and I believe we have been wronged. We have been wronged.

"Now, did one person (former basketball director of operations Andre McGee) do some scurrilous things? I believe so. From what I know now, I believe so. The only thing I don't know, I don't know why he did it. I just, for the life of me, can't figure it out -- he knew better, he was taught better, by his parents and by me."

That's troubling, the kind of nonsense that would be a problem for any program. It's also for the NCAA and U of L investigators to sort through. Eventually, they'll have the final word on this -- just as they should.

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