Reports: Rick Pitino is 'Coach-2' in federal college basketball corruption investigation
Several national media outlets Thursday morning reported that Coach-2, a coach alleged to have made phone calls to an adidas executive to help facilitate payments to a recruit, was University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Several national news outlets Thursday morning cited sources saying that University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is the person referred to as “Coach-2” in a federal college basketball bribery and corruption complaint unsealed Tuesday by the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Southern District of New York.
The Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” and CBS News reported it has learned that Pitino is the person referred to in the bombshell case by defendants during a meeting on July 27, 2017, in a Las Vegas hotel room that was under video surveillance by federal authorities.
Pitino's attorney, Steve Pence, would not comment on the "Coach-2" reports when asked this morning by WDRB reporter Stephan Johnson, saying that there has been a "rush to judgment" on the allegations and that, "We are going to let the matter take its legal course."
At that July 27, meeting, AAU coach Jonathan Brad Augustine and agent Christian Dawkins, allegedly discussed schemes to funnel recruits to U of L using payments from a company since identified in media reports as adidas with an undercover agent.
The following narrative of events plugs names of individuals and companies from media reports into their corresponding locations in the federal complaint. That complaint does not name any individuals or companies under investigation, only the individuals who are criminally charged. It is provided to clarify the allegations in light of subsequent media reporting.
A Louisville assistant coach who attended that Las Vegas meeting, in which Dawkins discussed efforts to get a 2019 recruit to Louisville, said, “the mom is like . . . we need our f***ing money. So we got to be able to fund this situation,” and, “we’re all working together to get this kid to University-6 [Louisville.]” Dawkins also noted in the meeting that since the university was already on probation they had to be careful with the money, and the assistant responded, “we got be very low key.”
At the meeting, Augustine also said that he expected adidas to fund at least a part of future payments to the 2019 recruit and his family because, referring to a coach media accounts have since identified as Pitino, “no one swings a bigger d*** at Company-1 [adidas] than Coach-2 [Pitino],” and adding, “all Coach-2 [has to do] is pick up the phone and call somebody [and say] these are my guys, they’re taking care of us.”
After the assistant left the room, Dawkins and Augustine then proceeded to discuss a prior deal with the agent, in which the family of a player since identified by media accounts as Brian Bowen agreed to attend Louisville in exchange for $100,000 in payments from adidas. Dawkins talked about some of the logistics of the deal, and noted that at one point, he had to raise the amount and tell Coach-2 [Pitino], “I need you to call Jim Gatto, who’s the head of everything,” at adidas’ basketball program.
Gatto, the director of global marketing for adidas who was charged with wire fraud and money laundering counts, was placed on leave by the company after the charges were unsealed Tuesday.
The federal complaint then states that an agent reviewed Gatto’s phone records and found two telephone conversations with a phone number used by Coach-2 on May 27 and another on or about June 1. On June 3, Bowen officially committed to Louisville.
While he has yet to respond to Thursday's media reports, Pence on Wednesday, when asked by WDRB’s Jason Riley if Pitino is Coach-2, he said, “Quite honestly, I don’t know.”
He added that he had not been told Pitino is under investigation and added, “I can tell you for sure Rick Pitino has done nothing wrong.”
University of Louisville interim president Greg Postel said that the institution is aware of who the coaches are but will not release their identities. When asked by WDRB's Marcus Green Thursday morning why the school would not divulge the identities of the coaches, Postel said: "We don't feel it's our place to make those announcements. It's an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys office."
Postel did say thinks federal authorities will amend their original complaint.
"When they are prepared, they will probably continue to amend their documents and gradually replace some of the numbers with actual names," he said. "But it's not our position to do that. They're their documents."
In a statement released on Pitino’s behalf late Wednesday, his attorneys said, “The information disclosed thus far in the investigation is clearly insufficient to implicate Coach Pitino in any type of misconduct or other activity that would violate the terms of his contract. In sum, Coach Pitino has done nothing wrong and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. The rush to judgment is regrettable.”
Pence also says that U of L's move to put Pitino on administrative leave violates the terms of his contract, which require Pitino to be given 10 days' prior written notice and an opportunity to be heard. Pence said Wednesday U of L had "effectively fired" Pitino without abiding by the terms of the contract.
"The suspension violates Pitino's contract," Pence told WDRB. "They say it's a suspension, we say it's a termination."
Pitino’s contract defines as just cause for termination, among other things, NCAA violations which cause material damage to the university, disparaging media publicity that damages the reputation of the university that is the result of willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring scandal, or conviction of a felony or employment-related or drug-related misdemeanor.
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