LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- During a Friday press conference, University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino answered questions about some postgame controversy after the Cardinals' loss to Kentucky on Dec. 26, and branched off into a discussion over coverage concerning allegations made by a former Louisville escort who says she provided strippers and prostitutes for Louisville players and recruits from 2010 to 2014.
In her book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," Powell, 42, claimed that she hosted 22 stripping and sex parties from 2010 to 2014 inside Billy Minardi Hall, the on-campus dorm for athletes. She has said that former Louisville graduate assistant Andre McGee arranged the parties and paid her $10,000 for supplying dancers. (An examination of her book by WDRB News showed that her book outlined 11 parties in the dorm with less than $6,000 reported.)
In November, Powell's attorney told WDRB News that she had met with NCAA investigators who were looking into the allegations.
In his first pre-game news conference in several weeks, Pitino talked at length about the alleged scandal, after being asked whether he made an obscene gesture toward fans in Rupp Arena after Louisville's loss at Kentucky. Pitino denied a gesture, then launched into a discussion of why he didn't show up at a postgame news conference in Lexington, before then launching into differences he had with WDRB journalist Rick Bozich about opinions he has written.
Below is a transcript of those comments:
QUESTION: DID YOU FLIP OFF THE UK FANS?
PITINO: I did not. It wasn’t fans, per se, I was in the tunnel, and it’s really not important. And I’ll say this to you guys, you guys think it’s important, and I respect if you say I should show up for a press conference and you write it, that’s not what I’m pissed off at you about. There’s a lot of other things. That’s fine. That’s your opinion. You have a right to your opinion. I said it 36 hours before the game to Paul (Rogers) as well as Kenny (Klein), I wasn’t doing the press conference because it’s a very emotional game for me. When we go into a press conference in a neighborhood like that, I don’t want to hear about the scandal, OK? I don’t want to hear about that. That has bothered me every single night.
What bothers me about you (turning to Rick Bozich) is you say, I know everybody’s body fat, you must know about this (events in the dorm). That pisses me off, beyond your wildest dreams. Because that took place in Billy Minardi Hall, and we didn’t get one recruit. Somebody criminally came onto our campus. I’m pissed off at ESPN for even giving a forum to that person. If there are crimes — now I didn’t read the book, you guys read the book, so I only know what people tell me — but if there are crimes being committed, why is the NCAA or ESPN giving a forum to that person. If there are crimes, now I don’t know if there are crimes being committed.
The NCAA is upset at me because if I say, I can’t find one person, not one, that knew anything about it, the NCAA says you’re intimidating the witnesses. That wasn’t my intent to say that. So that’s why I didn’t go to media day. They’re telling me I’m intimidating. Well, soon as this happened, I went ballistic on everybody. Wait a second. You didn’t know one, single thing? The security person. You never saw a thing in four years and you worked for four years around the clock? No. Well the answer’s obvious isn’t it, Rick, isn’t the answer obvious? The reason that nobody saw anything, they knew that all hell would break loose if I found out that one, single thing was going on. That would be the obvious thing to me. So I don’t want to put myself out on a press conference like that, not for you, not for you, you’ve already asked your questions. But for other people who are going ask that question that you just had to ask — you wouldn’t ask it, but you’re working for people.
So I’m not going to say no comment. I’m not going to say it. I’m too old. I don’t care, OK? So I’m not going to say it. There’s only one good thing about being 63, is you don’t care what people think anymore. It’ the only thing? Am I right, Tim (Sullivan), do you care anymore? (Sullivan answers, ‘I’m not 63.’) I thought you were in your seventies. But that’s really the only good thing. So it bothers me because I’ve got a lot of failings in my life. We all know what I’ve been through. But one failing is, I’m totally complaint to the rules of the NCAA. I don’t believe in breaking any of those things. At all. And if anything, what was going on, if things did go on the way they say it, we weren’t going to get one player. I still can’t figure out, when it’s all said and done, why? Why was this being done? I don’t understand. It’s the only question that I would love to get answered. I don’t understand why. None of it makes sense to me. So I believe, and I have to thank Eric publicly because he’s the only guy that said, I’m going to show you that this, I know one thing, that guy’s the cheapest guy I’ve ever been around in my life, I know those numbers, and Eric did it, said follow the money trail, and showed it wasn’t that money. He proved it. He proved the inaccuracies in the book.
When we went up there, and I’ll leave it with this, and 2016 is hopefully going to be a better year, when Kenny Klein and John Carns went up there (to Indianapolis) to this book company to find out what’s going on, what can we investigate, what can we do? They made a statement that was interesting. I don’t know if it was a racist statement, I don’t know. Correct me if I’m wrong on this. The statement was made, ‘You mean to tell me this person kept a four-year log of everything that was going on? Wrote a journal about this?’ (Answer) No, no, we wrote it. She can’t complete two sentences the right way to write a book. That was said. Is that the way it was said? (Turning to Klein, who said, somewhat, yes. That’s about what was said.) So you mean to tell me a book was written, a four-year record was kept? There was no four-year record. You’ve got to be kidding me. So nobody goes after, ESPN doesn’t go after, are you telling the truth? Did you keep a four year journal? Did you write it? Or was it written just to get this book out because the excerpts were going to be given to The Courier-Journal or The Courier-Journal was going to get hold of it? There’s a lot of things I’m bothered by, every, single night that I go to bed.
I’m really bothered by the fact that you (Bozich) think I knew something because I knew everybody’s body fat. Because of the amount of time I’ve known you, thinking that even in your wildest dreams think I would do something like that in Billy Minardi Hall. Now you might think because of my personal failings 10 years ago, oh yeah that’s . . . Well, I’m bothered by that, but you have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to my opinion. (Bozich: ‘That’s fair.’) I speak to you just professionally, even though, and I was just told this by the way the other day when I was in Miami, for the first time. So I’m bothered by this a lot, when I go to bed at night, I bothered by a lot of all of this, because of my beliefs in how a program should be run. I’m not too sure that a lot of these things are the truth. And the only one who has gotten to the bottom of this is Eric Crawford where, it’s not the truth. Here they’re saying they kept a journal for four years, but can’t complete two sentences. Something’s not right here. I think you’ve got to follow the money trail. And then 11 people are suing her saying it’s not the truth. Is it 11? Whatever the number is out there. So I don’t know what’s going on with all this, but I know that everybody gave a forum to this person who may have committed criminal acts. But nobody went after her. Was this true? Was your daughter 18, was it 16, how much money, where’d the money come from? I don’t know any of that. It’s bothered me every, single night. So if I don’t want to do a press conference, it’s because it’s a very emotional time. It’s not because I lost a game. I’ve done press conferences for 40 some-odd years. Give me a break. We lost a game. It’s not going to be because of that. I’m not going to say no comment anymore, because I don’t care at 63. I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And I want to clean it up. If there are somethings that have to be cleaned up — I know one thing, why I didn’t know about it: I guarantee if a chair gets broken at Minardi Hall and I find out about it, there’s going to be a problem. So you can bet if something like that was going on I’d be the last to find out about it, because all hell would pay. Right away. The moment it happened. All hell would pay.
But, and just to answer some of the points, there are security people that are good people. One guy I had more complaints about, that he was too hard on our players, too hard, all the time, and the more I heard that he was too hard, the more I liked him. That’s good. That’s the type of guy I want running the dormitory. So did he sneak them through the back door? Did they hide in the room? I have no idea. But I guarantee you if anybody knew about it, and it got back to me, all hell. And I really feel the same way about my assistant coaches, the same way about them. I think they’re an extension of me. I think if they would have known anything, all held would have broken loose. So in 2016, this will be the last time I ever mention it. But I am getting it off my chest now, because I want to say it one time. And I really don’t care about what anybody thinks, why I don’t show up at a press conference, I couldn’t care less. There’s a reason for it. It’s not because we lost a basketball game. It was a terrific — when we lost to Duke (at Kentucky), I always say it was one of the greatest games ever played. So if I wasn’t afraid to meet the press in the most difficult loss of all time. So come on, give me a break with that stuff. If I show up for Duke, I think I can show up for that. And by the way, the Final Four was at stake in that game.
Q: HAVE YOU BEEN GIVEN AN UPDATE ON WHERE THE INVESTIGATION STANDS?
PITINO: No, I have not been interviewed myself yet. You know what's going to happen. It's ... I think they've got to contact every recruit that's come in here first. Then they go forward. Look they still haven't resolved North Carolina and how many years were they with Syracuse, how many years did it last? Two, three four years. North Carolina, it's been going on how long? ... I think the earliest this is going to go is July. I think that's the earliest you'll see anything resolved.
My feeling is, the only thing I want to do as far as the university -- if there's a lie, if the book publishing company is lying ... there's always these conspiracy theories it's Indiana. I don't believe any of that. They have to graduate from somewhere. But the one thing I can tell you is if there are lies in this book as Eric has pointed out, then I want to point it out. And I don't know why everybody gave this person a forum. I just don't understand it. Why they gave them a forum. Because if someone's lying or not telling the truth and did not keep a journal, I don't know. I'm a doubting Thomas with a lot of things. . . .
Eric's point is let's follow the money. Is that what you said, Eric? Let's follow the money? Let's understand this: Back in the old days when a coach was making $17,000, $19,000, he may have turned his eyes a little bit to certain things that were going on. When someone's making the incomes that we're making today as well as the assistant coaches, you are not risking one single thing. Not one, single thing you're not risking. With that amount of income that's going on.
Now some people may still be on the fence and take risks. But you're not going to find people like that, taking those risks anymore. Just follow the money where people make today. You think they're going to risk bringing people in to strip? Are you crazy? Doesn't make any sense to me. None of it does. So that's my peace. I've said it once and for all.
I think this university has as much integrity — I said it on of my blogs. The man I've met ... the one man in my life ... I'll say two and some people question John Wooden with Sam Gilbert. But the one person I would never question who I have ever encountered in my life as a young basketball coach is Joe Paterno
He would be the one guy that I would hold above reproach at everything. What did they do? They took a statue away. They probably killed him.
I was offered the head coaching job by him in the 70s I think it was. And I went to his house. And I said, 'This is probably going to be, this man is ... I'm from Queens New York, Manhattan. This guy is going to be living. He's Joe Paterno. I went in that house. I was amazed. It was a little ranch. He got up and greeted me. This is house after all those years. The most humble man and the man with the most integrity in our game. And look at the way it ended for him. I don't think I've ever me a man with more integrity than that man.
But you know sometimes he didn't know about it. And it was scurrilous what that assistant coach was doing. And I believe in Joe Paterno and I believe that the way that he went out breaks your heart even thinking about it in that situation.
I want our university if we feel we are being wronged to step up and say, 'No, we're being wronged in there.' Now it's tough to do sometimes because the NCAA says, no, just like they said with me, you can't be saying those things because you have no proof. You may be intimidating them. That wasn't my intention to intimidate anybody. I wasn't going to go. I got fed up with them when they said that. I said, 'Look, I’m just not going to go (to ACC Media Day). The university said that's the best thing. Not anymore. It's not going to happen any more that way.
Q: WHAT CHANGED?
PITINO: Because when I hear all these things are going on and nobody is sticking up for us, except those 11 people that moved forward and said, ‘No, that’s not true.’ And then I hear the comment that Kenny and John Carns got, and I, how can they keep a four-year journal? What’s going on here? You know what I always say, the truth lies somewhere in the middle sometimes. If there’s 20 times, there’s been 10. If you say there’s $10,000, there’s $3,000 or $4,000 that was passed. Or maybe there was none passed. So I’m bothered by it. Like I said, since the way we run the program here, I believe in it wholeheartedly, I believe in Tom Jurich the way he tells every coach, I’m behind you 100 percent but don’t break a single rule. I know what was said to me. I know what was said to Rex (Ecarma) over at tennis. I know what was said to our football coach and our track coach. And I believe in the way we do things, and I believe we have been wronged. We have been wronged. Now, did one person 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 out — he knew better, he was taught better, by his parents and by me.
So that’s the last I’ll mention it. I’m sure you’re thankful of that. But I do want to wish all of you a Happy New Year. I’m proud of the team we have right now. I’ve had more fun coaching this basketball team every single day than I’ve had since I’ve been here. And I think it will carry over into next year. And I think it will, if we get Wake Forest and get on a good home winning streak, I think some good things will happen to this basketball team come March.
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