Rick Pitino leaving federal court

Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino leaves federal court after nine hours of settlement discussions with the University of Louisville on Sept. 10, 2019. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There was no agreement, no white smoke emanating from the federal courthouse on Broadway, and especially no comment from the University of Louisville Athletic Association or its former men's basketball coach, Rick Pitino.

Pitino's lawsuit seeking upwards of $40 million is still on the docket, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Colin H. Lindsay ordered the parties into settlement discussions. Those talks began Tuesday morning and went on for nine hours, with Lindsay presiding, before breaking up.

The dispute is nearing the two-year point. Pitino filed his suit in late 2017, claiming the university was wrong to use the sex-for-recruits scandal at the school as a reason for firing him for cause, because he was not found to have had a role in those violations. The school argues he is presumed responsible, and that the resulting major violations created a breach of contract.

But you don’t settle an impasse this large in a single afternoon over a lunch delivery of Jimmy John’s. The parties gathered in separate rooms on the second floor of the courthouse, only occasionally emerging for breaks.

At one point during the proceedings, Pitino Tweeted out what appeared to be a photo from dinner the night before in Louisville with the caption, “Great spending time in Louisville with close loyal friends.” The photo showed his son Richard, Vinny Tatum and Jordan Sucher, who worked closely with Pitino at Louisville, and David Padgett, who played for Pitino, worked for him for several seasons and became acting coach after his firing.

We don’t know when talks will resume, though it won’t be today. We don’t know if they were productive, contentious, or anything else. We do know that no agreement was reached.

One would think that both sides would benefit from a settlement.

Pitino might not need the money, but he would love to coach again, and an active lawsuit against an employer probably isn’t helping matters. At 67, he looks around and sees other coaches, men who have evidence of potential wrongdoing at their feet, no less, leading major programs, seemingly without consequence.

U of L is fighting on multiple fronts. It is facing an active NCAA investigation for its role in an adidas scheme to pay Brian Bowen to attend Louisville – while Pitino was coach and with the alleged complicity of two of his assistant coaches. And the school is dealing with the Pitino lawsuit.

Whether settling the latter would help in the former is a complicated question. But inasmuch as everything U of L says to the NCAA has an effect on the Pitino proceeding, and vice versa, an argument could be made that it might be easier to dispose of one before launching into the other.

A recent assertion by trustee David Grissom that former president James Ramsey told him a trustee provided money to fund Andre McGee’s sex parties in the basketball residence hall is a prime example. Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence, filed a motion to re-open discovery after that deposition became public in a report by WDRB.

Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment, but U.S. District Judge David Hale has yet to rule on those requests.

A year ago, Pitino was determined to have his day in court. He seemed unmotivated by the idea of a settlement. But things can change. In the past year, Pitino has had a federal judge, Lewis Kaplan, smear him without evidence – when he wasn’t on trial – during sentencing after the college basketball corruption trials. (He later refused to make investigative documents available to the NCAA saying that they could be used to smear coaches who weren’t on trial. Go figure.)

In some ways, all Pitino has pressed for since the Katina Powell story came to light nearly four years ago was his own day in a courtroom, and this suit against the university could provide it.

It also would be expensive and, as all trials are, no sure thing.

Pitino exited the courthouse Monday evening and quickly ducked into a black sedan. He said he wasn’t allowed to speak. U of L officials left just as quietly.

The good news for everyone who has followed this acrimonious saga is that they are now, presumably, at least speaking to each other. That’s a start.

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