CRAWFORD | Pitino tells ESPN he's hired an agent, hopes to retur - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Pitino tells ESPN he's hired an agent, hopes to return to coaching

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford WDRB photo by Eric Crawford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It will soon be that time of year when we hear about players hiring agents and declaring their intentions to head to the NBA. On Friday, former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino declared to ESPN that he has hired an agent, and hopes to return to coaching at any level.

Speaking with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Pitino said he doesn’t want to end his storied career on the note it ended on at Louisville, where he was fired quickly after he and his program were implicated in an FBI investigation into corruption and bribery in college basketball.

Pitino told Goodman that he has hired agent Jordan Bazant to pursue coaching options. Based in New York City, Bazant’s client list includes, or has included, Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, former N.C. State basketball coach Mark Gottfried and current football coach Dave Doeren, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Iowa’s Fran McCaffery, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm, Arizona State’s Bob Hurley, Georgia’s Mark Fox and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin.

To date, Pitino is the only head coach to have been fired in connection with the investigation, though no direct evidence has been brought against him. An agent in an FBI surveillance video told an FBI agent that on one occasion, he had to approach a head coach about asking the shoe company adidas for more money to land a recruit. News sources have identified that coach as Pitino and the federal complaint shows that three phone calls were placed from Pitino to adidas executive Jim Gatto on or around the dates in question.

Pitino later said he wasn’t calling adidas asking for money, but to intercede on behalf of former Cardinal Terry Rozier, whose contract was canceled when he wore a pair of Nikes during a pregame shootaround. A story in Sports Illustrated showed that the dates in question there roughly coincided with Pitino’s reported phone calls to Gatto.

No recordings exist of Pitino’s calls with Gatto, nor of Pitino engaged in any improper recruiting activity.

“I've never offered any player $5," Pitino told Goodman. "I've been assassinated by the Southern District of N.Y. without any wiretap or shred of evidence, and the University of Louisville. That being said, I love teaching basketball and am more passionate than ever."

Pitino told Goodman he wants to return to the game, in some head coaching capacity at some level.

“The level doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I just need it to be someone who believes in me.”

They were Pitino’s first public comments since he reacted with anger and sadness over the NCAA’s decision to uphold the vacation of a national championship he coached the Cardinals to in 2013, along with 123 victories from his tenure.

Pitino said he is trying not to be better, but clearly harbors some anger at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, and for a recently-installed board of trustees at the University of Louisville. (Pitino’s firing, it should be noted, came via a unanimous vote of the U of L Athletic Association board of directors, not the board of trustees, though Pitino had been feeling push-back from the new board for some time before the FBI allegations).

“Every night I go to bed, I'm bitter at the U.S. attorney's office and at the 'board of traitors' at Louisville," Pitino said. "I'm not bitter at the school, but at the board of traitors."

Pitino himself has reportedly dropped a five-game NCAA suspension – something that would come into play at any subsequent college job he takes. The NCAA did not find that Pitino failed to monitor his program, nor did it find that he should have known about a director of basketball operations providing strippers and prostitutes for players and recruits in the men’s basketball dorm, given the evidence that it could uncover in a one-year investigation that included examinations of school records, phone records, text messages and around 100 interviews. What the NCAA did find is that Pitino should have investigated more on his own to unearth the wrongdoing.

The NCAA did not give Pitino a show-cause penalty, meaning that the only NCAA impediment for any college hiring him would be the five-game suspension.

“I feel awful for what has happened,” Pitino said in a news conference in New York on Feb. 23, covered by WDRB News. “I have run a clean program all my life. I can understand sitting in your seat and saying, ‘Look what happened back-to-back in a short span of time, and I would agree with you, it looks bad. But I have coached 41 years, and for 35, as a head basketball coach, nothing has happened . . . But I’ve run into two bad situations right now, and I have to take full accountability for that. I totally apologize and my heart breaks for everybody involved.”

Pitino said he’s yet to have any discussions with college programs, but has had one conversation with an NBA team about a potential opening.


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