Who will Louisville hire to replace Rick Pitino? It’s tougher than you think to answer

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Answering the question of who the next head coach will be at Louisville is a difficult one.

Not because the program is going to be short of suitors – this is a top ten, if not a top five, job in college basketball – but because there is an unbelievable amount of uncertainty involved with the program at this time.

For starters, not only was Rick Pitino ‘effectively fired’ on Wednesday, his athletic director, Tom Jurich, was also placed on administrative leave. The man that made those decisions was Greg Postel, the interim president who said at a press conference today that the university hopes to have an answer to their AD and coach problems within 48 hours.

That is a short turnaround for an interim president to make a decision on who will be arguably the two most important employees at a university with the most profitable athletic department in the country.

And that is before you factor in that we still do not know what’s coming from the NCAA. Postseason bans are certainly not out of the question. Hell, we could be looking at a situation where the NCAA decides that the death penalty is warranted here.

Does the school want to hire the best candidate that they can get as soon as possible,, even if the man making those decisions isn’t the one that will be in charge for the long-term? Or do they want to hire an interim until the higher-ups get more settled? Would delaying the hire of a permanent coach until next spring create an issue as the NCAA situation gains clarity?

None of these questions are easy to answer.

But here are some thoughts on the potential candidates:

IF LOUISVILLE HIRES AN INTERIM COACH

Tom Crean: If Louisville opts to go the interim route, Crean seems like the obvious answer. He was fired in the spring by Indiana despite winning two of the last five Big Ten regular season titles. He’s well-regarded as one of the most prepared coaches in the country and considered by many to be an excellent x’s-and-o’s coach. It would be the easiest fix for a team that, even without Brian Bowen, looks to be a top 10-15 team in the country.

This would also, in theory, make sense for Crean. He would have a chance to re-prove himself as a coach after what happened with the Hoosiers. That’s a good way to showcase himself for whatever jobs happen to open up next spring, including this one. But is this something he’d be willing to take? He’s not desperate. He’s living that buyout life. If he wants a contract and not just an interim tag, and if this scandal goes as deep as some expect that it will, is this really the best option?

Thad Matta and John Thompson III are two more coaches living that buy out life, although they make much less sense. Part of the reason Matta is no longer employed by Ohio State is because he’s struggled with his health in recent years. And the thought of JT3’s Princeton Offense at Louisville is … yeah, that’s not going to work all that well. Very unlikely to happen.

Seth Greenberg and Fran Fraschilla: Greenberg and Fraschilla are both ex-coaches working cushy ESPN jobs, but the coaching bug never leaving once you catch it. Both of these commentators have plenty of experience on the sidelines.

David Padgett, Louisville assistant coach: Padgett would be the likely candidate should Louisville opt to promote from within for the season. Jordan Fair is a recent addition to the staff while Kenny Johnson’s name has been linked with some of the violations committed in the bombshell FBI investigation. Staying loyal to this staff may be a tough sell, but if it is going to be anyone, Padgett makes the most sense. According to reports, he already has been placed in charge of the day-to-day operations of the program.

Kenny Payne, Kentucky associate head coach and former Louisville player: Payne has long been angling for a shot at a head coaching gig, and the last former Kentucky coach to take over at Louisville had a pretty good run of success.

Scott Davenport, Bellarmine coach: Davenport was an assistant with Denny Crum and Pitino in the early part of his tenure. He is a very well-regarded coach at the Division II level, but it is unclear if the school would be willing to hire another coach with ties to Pitino.

IF LOUISVILLE HIRES AN OFFICIAL REPLACEMENT

Chris Mack, Xavier: This is as good of a fit as you are going to find. Mack is young (47 years old) and already successful, making seven NCAA tournaments, four Sweet 16s and an Elite 8 in eight years as a head coach. He’s from Ohio, coaches two hours up the road from Louisville in Cincinnati and has recruited the Midwest extensively in his career. He has never been entangled with the NCAA and he’s proven the ability to recruit high-level talent and develop lesser-known prospects. And, perhaps most importantly, Louisville is a job that might actually convince Mack to leave Xavier.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: On paper, Marshall has a top ten team capable of winning the AAC and getting to the Final Four. But his two best players are currently injured, Louisville is one of the view jobs where Marshall would be the big man on campus – read: not at a football school – and he would be able to receive a salary commensurate with what he’s currently getting from the Koch brothers and Wichita State.

Shaka Smart, Texas: Two years ago, this would have been the homerun hire. Smart has been at Texas for two seasons now and is coming off a year where he missed the NCAA tournament. The luster is off, which means Louisville might be able to get him at a discount. His style of play would fit in perfectly with the roster Louisville currently has.

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.