Almost a year after the FBI investigation into college basketball led to his termination at Louisville, Rick Pitino thinks it’s unlikely he will return to coaching at the college level.
In a book released Tuesday entitled “Pitino: My Story,” co-written with Seth Kaufman, Pitino writes that “my coaching career is possibly finished.”
When asked to expand by ESPN in a wide-ranging interview prior to the book’s release, Pitino admitted he doesn’t believe he will get a coaching job again.
“There was one job this past year, that I really did want. They called the NCAA and the NCAA said, ‘We’re handcuffed. The FBI will not allow us to investigate, we can’t give you a yes or no on Rick Pitino because we’re not allowed to investigate,'” Pitino said. “I’m not really thinking about coaching again in the future because I’m not in control of that. I feel it’s over for me.”
While also a memoir of his 40-year coaching career, Pitino focused much of the book on three key aspects of the past few years: the 2015 sex scandal, the 2017 FBI investigation into shoe company influence in college basketball, and his eventual termination from Louisville.
He took responsibility for hiring former staffer Andre McGee and assistant Jordan Fair, writing “that the buck stops with me,” but also laid much of the blame at the feet of the Southern District of New York, the FBI investigators and the Louisville Board of Trustees.
As Pitino, 65, has done since Katina Powell’s book in the fall of 2015, he denied any knowledge of the stripper parties organized by McGee.
“My inquisitors had no evidence I knew about Andre McGee’s stripper events because none existed,” Pitino wrote. “As I just explained, I had no clue. No one they interviewed said I was complicit in any way. Additionally, they had no evidence that any other employee in my program knew about Andre’s antics either. There are probably multiple reasons for that — starting with the fact Andre knew I would have fired him the moment I learned of a single compliance infraction and ending with the fact that his ‘events’ reportedly involved potentially criminal acts like prostitution and underage sex.”
He added that Louisville should have defended itself against the NCAA more aggressively and not self-imposed sanctions early in the process. Pitino also called the NCAA’s decision to vacate Louisville’s 2013 NCAA championship as a result of the stripper scandal “ridiculous.”
Last September, the FBI arrested 10 people connected to college basketball, including assistant coaches, financial advisers, runners and shoe company executives. No one from Louisville was arrested, but the Cardinals were linked to the investigation with allegations that Adidas paid $100,000 to the family of five-star prospect Brian Bowen to steer him to Louisville. Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were placed on unpaid administrative leave two days later and fired last October.
In “My Story,” Pitino continued to deny any involvement or knowledge of any payment.
“I have never discussed illegal recruiting schemes with Adidas or anyone else, ever,” he wrote. “So the reason there’s no hard evidence about me plotting to violate recruiting laws is that there is none. Let me say for the thousandth time: in more than thirty years as a college head coach, I have never given any player or their family members a single inducement to play for me. Nor have I ever plotted or suggested doing anything like this.”
Pitino told ESPN that he is most upset about the FBI making his name easily identifiable in the documents and bringing him into the investigation based on the word of someone else. In the book, he claimed a United States Attorney told his legal team that he was just “collateral damage.”
Pitino wrote that his termination from Louisville was not solely due to the two major scandals in his final few years in charge of the Cardinals, telling his staff in June 2017 that the new Board of Trustees was “out to get me.”
“There is evidence to suggest my removal as coach of the Cardinals was influenced by the highest levels of the state government,” he wrote, pointing to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and Papa John’s founder John Schnatter among the main culprits.
“[Athletic director Tom Jurich and I] were both effectively fired with no investigation, no trial, no nothing … the DOJ complaints didn’t accuse me of a damn thing and didn’t even allude to Tom.”
Pitino also expressed his thoughts on shoe company involvement in college basketball and the future of the sport.
While he said he likes AAU basketball and the way it gives young basketball players an organized opportunity to play, he said the sneaker money has become a problem.
“AAU teams … have become a plague for college recruiters,” he wrote. “They are all funded with an unspoken, unofficial goal in mind: Funnel the players to the right college and get rewarded. … I believe we are overdue when it comes to figuring out a way to remove sneaker companies’ undue influence at the grassroots level.”
Pitino said he agrees with several things that Condoleezza Rice’s Commission on College Basketball recommended, but feels players should be able to profit from their likenesses via commercials or autograph signings. If that does not change, Pitino said he is concerned that the elimination of the one-and-done rule will take the high-end talent from college basketball.
“I am extremely concerned about the future of college basketball,” he wrote.