Rick Pitino, Katina Powell weigh in on self-imposed postseason ban

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville has sued former men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino for monetary damages from NCAA vacated games, final fours and its 2013 championship, alleging the coach’s negligence and “wrongful conduct” in current and previous scandals has tarnished the school’s reputation.

“Mr. Pitino, and not the University, was the active wrongdoer,” the lawsuit alleges after noting the NCAA has ordered the school to return money received for the 2012-2015 men’s basketball tournaments.

The university is also seeking “any bonuses and other compensation wrongly paid” to Pitino for those tournament appearances, according to the suit, filed Wednesday in federal court.

The suit claims Pitino was fired because of “conduct over a period of years, including without limitation, his involvement in multiple recent and highly publicized scandals involving himself, personally, and the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball team.”

The lawsuit, filed as a counterclaim to Pitino’s more than $35 million suit against the school’s athletic department, claims Pitino was in charge of the program when it committed multiple NCAA violations, including those stemming from the Katina Powell escort scandal.

On Sept. 26, the university was told by federal investigators in New York that the men’s basketball program was involved in a “scheme of fraud and malfeasance” in recruiting players, the suit says.

Pitino’s actions, according to the suit, have hurt U of L’s reputation, its ability to recruit and slowed ticket sales and donations.

The university also filed a defense to Pitino’s Nov. 30 lawsuit, arguing the former coach was properly terminated on Oct. 16, after being given a hearing.

As evidence, the suit points to a Oct. 18 interview with ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, in which Pitino took “full responsibility” for hiring decisions, which would include the assistant coaches alleged to have been involved in the recruiting scheme.

Pitino’s breach-of-contract lawsuit, filed Nov. 30, claims he is owed $4.3 million per year over the next nine years and argues U of L’s athletics association did not comply with the terms of his employment contract, including giving proper notice, when Pitino was placed on leave and later fired.

By dismissing him “for cause,” the school maintains it owes the coach none of the more than $35 million in compensation left on his contract.

Pitino’s attorneys argue there is nothing in the federal criminal complaint unsealed in late September that ties Pitino to any improper activities.

“Coach Pitino had no part — active, passive, or through willful ignorance — in the conspiracy described in the Complaint,” Pitino’s says. “Coach Pitino never has had any part — active, passive, or through willful ignorance — in any effort, successful or unsuccessful, completed or abandoned, to pay any recruit, or any family member of a recruit, or anyone else on a recruit’s behalf, as an inducement to attend the University of Louisville.”

Indeed, the lawsuit reiterates Pitino's position that he was not aware of the alleged actions described in the federal complaint. Documents filed in federal court in New York allege that at least one U of L coach took part in a plan to send money from apparel company Adidas to prospective players.

Federal investigators claim they have phone records showing that Jim Gatto, the global marketing manager for Adidas, and a coach believed to be Pitino, had conversations on May 27 and twice on June 1. Two days later, Brian Bowen, a highly touted recruit who had up to that point shown little interest in U of L, committed to the team.

Then, on July 27, a U of L assistant coach met in a Las Vegas hotel room with one of the defendants in the federal complaint, 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 the coach believed to be Pitino, identified as "Coach-2," and told him, “I need you to call Jim Gatto,” to secure additional funding for a recruit.

In the counterclaim filed Wednesday, U of L argues the federal investigation “which was announced on the heels” of the stripper scandal “evidences an ongoing failure to adequately monitor and supervise his assistant coaches,” as required under Pitino’s contract.

And the university noted that Pitino’s attorneys do not deny the team and some of its coaching staff is “entangled” in the FBI investigation.

In addition, the university argues that Pitino knew Bowen’s mother was living in the Galt House but did not tell compliance staff about “the potential red flag,” according to the suit.

U of L also  argues Pitino breached his contract when, for four years, he failed to monitor former basketball assistant Andre McGee, who hired self-proclaimed madame Katina Powell and her escorts for stripper parties that went on in Minardi Hall.

U of L interim President Greg Postel had previously said that Pitino "could not have known about the illicit activities," and Pitino’s lawsuit says nothing occurred between the date of the federal complaint and the university's October 4 termination letter to "justify a change in that position." 

This story will be updated. 

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