Dino Gaudio

Former University of Louisville basketball assistant coach Dino Gaudio. (WDRB photo) 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Here is what we know about the latest University of Louisville basketball tabloid moment:

Dino Gaudio did a stupid, emotional and likely illegal thing.

You don’t respond to a job termination by trying to act like The Terminator. The federal government will show up unexpectedly at your house, asking uncomfortable questions. Extortion smells like a career-ender.

Here is something friends swear about Gaudio: He’s one of the last guys you’d expect to display that behavior.

Former ESPN teammates rave about him. Three college coaches that I’ve talked with could not believe Chris Mack fired Gaudio in early March.

Gaudio came up in the old school Xavier basketball culture created by Pete Gillen. He’ll have a stack of letters testifying to the quality of his character written by friends at West Point, where Gaudio once coached.

Let me share something a long-time Gaudio’s friend said: 

“He’s trusted, loyal and a person I have always looked up to in this profession.”

Who was that friend?

Mack, the Cards’ head coach.

There was a stretch last winter when Mack dealt with the novel coronavirus. He made Gaudio the face of the program, the guy who appeared on the Atlantic Coast Conference media teleconference and ran practices.

But here is nagging item that we still don’t know in this colossal mess: 

Why were Gaudio and Luke Murray, another highly-praised U of L assistant coach, fired several days after the last season? 

The alleged extortion occurred after, not before, the decisions not to renew their contracts.

Were Gaudio and Murray simply the public fall guys for the Cards’ flat, uninspiring 13-7 season?

Was this Mack responding to percolating pressure on him from the administration, fans and talk radio after the 2021 Cardinals underachieved and missed the NCAA Tournament?

Or ... did Gaudio and Murray tell the head coach things that Mack didn’t want to hear? About NCAA rules being broken? About interactions with players?

Did Gaudio talk to Mack about these issues before the alleged extortion?

The extortion part of this story grabbed the early headlines. But the fine print about possible NCAA violations is not insignificant. That part is what will matter for Louisville basketball, which showers in scandal.

Silly, minor rules violations? 

You can say that. Who cares how graduate managers were used in practice?

No rule violation is silly or minor at Louisville. This program lost the benefit of the doubt long ago. Any violation would be reckless for a program tagged with major NCAA rule-breaking twice in the last six years, becoming the only men’s basketball program stripped of a national title.

This program is wishing, hoping and praying it does not draw a future NCAA Tournament ban because of its current case involving the Brian Bowen recruitment that is winding to a conclusion in the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.

No need to give the NCAA motivation to dispatch more investigators to town or to reinforce the narrative that rules don’t matter at Louisville. You’ve already got people suggesting Louisville basketball needs to go away, like Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated.

Nationally, the place is a punchline. At Deadspin. With Dana O'Neil at TheAthletic.com. The New York Times jumped in.

We know the federal government doesn’t like what Gaudio did, but I wonder if we know what triggered Mack to dump two assistants —  just like we don’t know what really happened at Minardi Hall when Katina Powell and Andre McGee started this scandalous spin cycle many years ago.

Eventually, I hope we get Gaudio’s side of this story. That might never happen. It certainly won’t happen until after Gaudio’s case is resolved.

We know Gaudio did not handle the dismissal well. His attorney, Brian Butler, confirmed that.

Odds are Gaudio was blindsided by his firing. I was told he had just re-upped the lease on the home he rented in Louisville and was going to lose a significant sum of money while moving back to North Carolina.

Maybe Gaudio didn’t appreciate being scapegoated for an underachieving team that rolled over against Duke in their season finale.

Something destroyed a long friendship.

From a basketball standpoint, it’s tough to argue Mack made a game-changing upgrade to the Cardinals’ coaching staff.

This isn’t like Mack replaced Gaudio and Murray with Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman, the high-octane recruiters John Calipari brought from Illinois to fix Kentucky basketball.

When Mike Woodson talked Dane Fife into leaving Tom Izzo’s staff at Michigan State to return to Indiana, Fife’s alma mater, insiders noticed and applauded.

Antigua, Coleman, Fife and Yasir Rosemond, Woodson’s other assistant coaching hire at IU, have experience throwing elbows in the Top 25 recruiting shark tank. 

Kahil Fennel and Ross McMains, the replacements for Murray and Gaudio at Louisville, are Show-Me hires.

Maybe they’re the Next Great Things. Maybe they’ll out-perform Gaudio and Murray, who has already bounced back with a job at UConn, a program with four NCAA titles since 1999.

Or maybe they’re two guys about to embark on a king-sized learning curve.

We don’t know. 

Just like we don’t know what happened with the strippers and dancers in Minardi Hall. Or the recruitment of Brian Bowen that could end with more NCAA sanctions.

Or we don’t know everything that prompted the dismissals of Dino Gaudio and Luke Murray, who have not returned calls requesting comment since March.

Or, most importantly, we don’t know what the NCAA will do with this latest tabloid moment from the University of Louisville basketball program.

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