VIDEO | Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino calls NCAA ruling 'unjust'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The NCAA's decision to uphold sanctions against the University of Louisville, including vacating the 2013 men's basketball national championship, was "unjust," former U of L head coach Rick Pitino said Wednesday.

In wide-ranging remarks delivered at his attorney's office in New York, Pitino urged the university to take legal action against the NCAA and stressed that stripping and sex-themed parties at an on-campus dormitory did not contribute to his teams' postseason success.

"Those parties did not enhance our players' ability to win a championship or go to a Final Four," he said.

Pitino, wearing an open-collared light blue shirt and dark sport coat, spoke for 18 minutes, pausing once to collect himself during a prepared statement and while taking reporters' questions. He said he missed coaching but has had no discussions about returning to the profession.

He said his heart ached for U of L fans but added that it's unfair for an NCAA committee to cast itself as "judge and jury." The removal of the 2013 national championship banner will not enable the organization to "rewrite history," he said.

Pitino maintained that he always told the truth and was forthcoming during the NCAA investigation triggered by self-described madam Katina Powell's 2015 book "Breaking Cardinal Rules," which detailed parties for players and some recruits that involved escorts and prostitutes. 

But he acknowledged his own personal responsibility for what he said were mistakes that were made. Former U of L player and director of basketball operations Andre McGee, whom Pitino hired, was accused of organizing the parties.

"I take full responsibility for everyone I hired," Pitino said. 

He told reporters how he consistently instructed his staffers to follow NCAA rules, saying that after the publication of Powell's book he met daily with his subordinates about compliance issues.

Pitino was fired last fall after U of L was tied to an unrelated scheme to pay recruits. A criminal complaint unsealed in September claims that at least one U of L coach took part in a plan to send money from apparel company Adidas to prospective players.

Speaking in New York, Pitino alluded to former Louisville assistant Jordan Fair, who was reportedly one of the coaches involved in the scheme.

"The second person I hired, I fully vetted him out because of the first situation," Pitino said.

In a statement released after the press conference, Pitino said he has “never been involved, directly or indirectly” in paying money to a recruit or his family.

“I knew nothing about any agreement to make improper payments, and had no reason to suspect any illegality in the recruitment of any athlete in my programs," Pitino said.

He said he received a grand jury subpoena in September 2017 and “immediately complied” with the request, turning over all materials sought. He also said his attorneys have met with federal prosecutors and Pitino has offered to cooperate with the investigation and “offer what I know from my 40 years of experience in the game.”

In the end, Pitino concluded in the statement, “I hope to be judged not by the allegedly illegal or unethical pursuits of others, but by the scores of men and women who have worked with me, played for me and to whom I have dedicated my life over the past four decades and, hopefully, those with who I will work in the future.”

Speaking to reporters, he blasted the current U of L board of trustees that was installed in early 2017, claiming they were not "behind him." He urged the board to fight the NCAA penalties in court, though he said he doubted they would do so.

Interim U of L President Greg Postel and acting athletics director Vince Tyra said Tuesday that further legal action is unlikely now that the university has exhausted the NCAA appeals process.

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s infractions appeals committee turned back U of L’s challenge and ordered the school to vacate its 2013 championship and remove years of wins and player statistics from official records, doling out a historic punishment for a sex scandal that tarnished one of college basketball's most successful programs. 

The ruling was unprecedented: It marked the the first Division I men's basketball championship in modern NCAA history to be vacated.

U of L also will have to nullify victories between 2011 and 2015, including its 2012 Final Four appearance, and return to the NCAA at least $600,000 in postseason revenue.

McGee did not speak to investigators during the NCAA probe and has not spoken publicly since the publication of Powell's book.

"I want all the facts to come out, and I welcome the truth being exposed," Pitino said. "Those who can should come forward and fully disclose the truth once and for all -- because, quite frankly, my words are just not enough."

Jason Riley and Travis Kircher contributed.

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