Pitino attorney claims U of L 'acted out of frustration' and wit - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Pitino attorney claims U of L 'acted out of frustration' and without evidence

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – The University of Louisville “acted out of frustration” and without evidence when it suspended and began the process of firing basketball coach Rick Pitino, his attorney, Steve Pence said in an interview Friday.

“Wouldn’t they have looked at (evidence) before they burned the program to the ground?” Pence said of the athletics board’s vote Monday to terminate Pitino less than a week after a federal investigation alleged his program was involved in paying recruits. “It’s been, ‘shoot first and we’ll ask questions later.’”

Had the school waited and reviewed the evidence against Pitino, it would be clear the Hall of Fame coach had done nothing wrong, Pence said.

Federal prosecutors have declined to comment, but in a press conference on Sept. 26, they noted the investigation was ongoing and not all of the evidence has been made public yet. 

Pitino is reportedly the person described in a federal complaint as “Coach 2,” a U of L coach that prosecutors insinuate was involved a scheme to funnel money from Adidas, the school’s apparel sponsor, to prized basketball recruits.

But even if Pitino is “Coach 2” – which Pence won’t confirm or deny – the complaint lays out only circumstantial evidence against him in a misleading timeline, Pence said.

The unsealed complaint alleges investigators have phone records showing Jim Gatto, the global marketing manager for Adidas, and Coach 2 had conversations on May 27 and twice on June 1. Two days later, Brian Bowen, a highly touted recruit who had shown little interest in U of L, committed to the team.

These conversations do not appear to have been recorded and Pence deemed them “innocuous phone calls,” though he declined to say what the two men discussed.

“These phone calls aren’t evidence of anything,” he added. “The timing may seem odd, but the coach can’t control the timing of phone calls. This is all innuendo, no evidence.”

Two months later, on July 27, a U of L assistant coach met in a Las Vegas hotel room with agent Christian Dawkins, an undercover federal agent, a cooperating witness and another defendant, Jonathan Brad Augustine.  The meeting was video recorded by the FBI.

The complaint alleges Dawkins said that he had called Coach 2 and told him, “I need you to call Jim Gatto,” the global marketing manager for Adidas, to secure additional funding for a recruit.

But Pence said authorities captured no such conversation with Pitino despite having a wiretap on Dawkins’ phone.  It is unclear when this phone call was alleged to have been made or when a judge approved allowing investigators to record Dawkins’ conversations.

“If they had it on a recording, they would have arrested Coach 2,” Pence said. “There is ample proof the Dawkins thing didn’t happen. This guy is just boasting about coach 2, but what is there to back it up? Nothing. “

Basically, Pence said, university officials have chosen to believe “one person with nothing to back him up. The guy said, ‘I talked to coach,’ so we are just assuming that is true.”

The May phone calls between Pitino and Gatto and the July discussions about Coach 2 being asked to call Gatto are intentionally not put in chronological order in the federal complaint, Pence claims.

After the July Vegas meeting, the federal complaint lists the May calls, making it seem as if Pitino was asked to call Gatto  and then made the calls right before Bowen signed, he said.

“They got the chronology out of order and they deliberately did that,” Pence said.

And, he asked, why didn’t investigators just ask Pitino what he and Gatto talked about?

“Why would they add U of L and coach 2 with this flimsy evidence without charging them?” Pence said “They had to get that our there to make this splash. It was done to get attention and you know what, it worked.”

And interim President Greg Postel and university leaders panicked and suspended Pitino and then voted to begin the termination process without actually looking to determine if there is any evidence against the coach, Pence said.

“The best and brightest in the community get paid not to act out of frustration,” he said. “But this is just acting out of frustration.”

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