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Rick Pitino maintains he had ‘no knowledge’ of Louisville recruiting scandal in TV interview

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Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino continues to publicly maintain his innocence in the FBI probe that has rocked college basketball. The recently fired Pitino, in a televised interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas on Wednesday night, declared that he had “no knowledge” of any alleged payments that might have gone from Louisville to McDonald’s All-American recruit Brian Bowen, currently a freshman at the school.

In the interview with Bilas, Pitino stated that he passed a voluntary lie detector test in which he was asked about the Bowen situation and the involvement of Adidas. While Pitino told Bilas that he takes “full responsibility” for the hiring and vetting of his staff members, he still finds all of this hard to believe as he is maintaining his full innocence.

“I was asked two questions,” Pitino said of the lie detector test. “And I said, ‘I want you to ask me if any other recruits in my tenure were ever given anything.’ And he [the polygraph examiner] said, ‘That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for: Did you have any knowledge of the Bowen family getting any money? Did you have any knowledge of an Adidas transaction?’

“I answered ‘absolutely not’ on both questions and passed the lie detector test. So I had no knowledge of any of this.”

Louisville was not named directly in the FBI report that led to the arrest of 10, but the university has confirmed that they are a part of the probe. After being placed on unpaid administrative leave in late September, the Louisville athletic board opted to fire Pitino “for cause” earlier this week while athletic director Tom Jurich was also fired on Wednesday.

Pitino said that Louisville rushed to judgment with all of this as he believes the other schools involved in the probe are doing more to collect information before jumping to conclusions. When Pitino was asked to resign by Louisville officials, he told Bilas he refused, in-part because he wanted a full investigation to play out.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Pitino said of his resignation. “I said, ‘Let’s get the facts out here before we rush anything. We were sitting on a great team. We’re sitting on a great recruiting class. Let’s calm down a little bit here.'”

“This is your life,” Pitino said. “This is your passion and you don’t want your life taken and pulled away from you. I think all these other people reacted the right way, whether it’s at Auburn, Arizona, USC and Oklahoma [State]. … They’re collecting all the facts, seeing what’s going on. There’s only been one school that rushed to judgment and took the coach away from these players and that’s Louisville.”

Pitino also took the interesting stance of publicly defending Bowen, the recruit who has been at the center of Louisville’s involvement in the FBI investigation. It was alleged that Bowen’s family was funneled $100,000 to help facilitate his move to Louisville.

“I have no factual information on the statement I’m going to make right now: I don’t believe Brian Bowen knew a single thing about this,” Pitino said to Bilas. “I’m totally of the belief that the mom knew nothing about this because of the text message she sent me. Brian Bowen is a terrific young man.

“He fell into our lap in recruiting. Obviously, now with the circumstances behind it, there’s more to it than meets the eye. But I believe Brian Bowen chose the University of Louisville because he loved the visit, he loved his future teammates and he wanted to play for me. I don’t think he’s involved in this in any way. Now, am I being naive? I don’t know. I just believe in that young man.”

Obviously, there is a lot to take in with this interview, especially since Pitino continues to publicly state his case while nearly everyone else involved has stayed quiet. It’s hard to say if any of these statements will come back to haunt him but speaking up for Bowen’s innocence is another risky move that might have been better left unsaid.

(H/t: ESPN)

Rick Pitino files federal lawsuit against adidas

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Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s quest to prove that he had nothing to do with the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball produced another development on Tuesday. As first reported by ESPN’s Jay Bilas, Pitino has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville with adidas being the lone defendant.

Per media reports, Pitino is suing the company for its “outrageous conduct in conspiring to funnel money to the family of a college basketball recruit.”

Adidas’ connection to the ongoing criminal investigation is that two of its employees within the basketball department, Jim Gatto and Merl Code, were among the ten people arrested. While no one directly tied to Louisville has been charged, FBI documents revealed connections between members of the basketball program and the accused parties.

As a result of the investigation Louisville freshman small forward Brian Bowen is being withheld from all basketball activities by the school. Bowen and his family have since hired an attorney in an attempt to get the freshman reinstated.

Among the instances of wrongdoing documented by the FBI was a transaction in which $100,000 was paid in exchange for a recruit committing to attend Louisville. The timeline of the events were close to Bowen’s commitment timeline, with the five-star prospect announcing that he would attend Louisville in early June.

As a result of the investigation Pitino was placed on unpaid by Louisville, with the school’s Board of Regents voting unanimously to fire the head coach with cause on Monday.

Louisville hires Trent Johnson as assistant coach, fires Jordan Fair

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Louisville and acting head coach David Padgett made some changes to the team’s coaching staff on Wednesday. Padgett added some stability to the coaching staff with the addition of veteran head coach Trent Johnson during the afternoon. Later on Wednesday evening, Louisville officially parted ways with assistant coach Jordan Fair.

A 17-year head coach at four stops — Nevada, Stanford, LSU and TCU — Johnson should help offset the loss of former head coach Rick Pitino, Fair and assistant coach Kenny Johnson — placed on administrative leave.

Padgett is only in his second season of college coaching while being a first-time head coach, so adding an experienced coach like Johnson is probably a wise move. Johnson owns a 276-264 head coaching record and coached teams to five NCAA tournament appearances.

“Coach Johnson is highly experienced,” Padgett in a statement. “I’ve personally known him for a long time. He was the head coach at Nevada when his son and I played in high school together. He is going to bring a wealth of knowledge to our program. He’s someone that I will be able to lean on and our players will be able to relate well to him. I think under the circumstances, I don’t think that we could find a better hire.”

Louisville exercised an option in Fair’s contract to terminate him without cause, according to a release from the school. The first-year assistant coach was a program assistant last season before as he was elevated into a full-time assistant when Mike Balado left to become head coach at Arkansas State.

Louisville board votes to begin Rick Pitino’s termination

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The University of Louisville Athletic Association’s board voted on Monday to begin the process to terminate men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino “for cause.”

The unanimous vote to attempt to terminate Pitino for cause would mean that the school wouldn’t have to pay their former head coach his $44 million buyout.

“The board requested of me and authorized me to initiate the process to terminate for cause, as defined in Coach Pitino’s employment contract,” Louisville’s interim President Greg Postel said after the meeting.

Following an FBI crackdown into college basketball corruption last week, Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave after he was allegedly tied to a plan to bring McDonald’s All-American Brian Bowen to Louisville using $100,000 with cash coming from adidas executive Jim Gatto.

While Pitino is not directly named in the FBI’s release, he is reportedly “Coach-2” in the FBI complaint. “Coach-2” is mentioned nine times in the report, including three phone calls with an adidas executive in the days leading up to Bowen’s commitment.

Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday that he had “[zero] to do with it and I’ll be vindicated.”

According to WDRB.com, attorneys for Pitino officially served a breach of contract notice to Louisville on Monday. Since the school believes it is firing Pitino for cause while only paying for 10 days of additional salary, Pitino is going for a lot more money.

Expect a long legal battle for the millions of dollars in Rick Pitino’s Louisville buyout.

(H/t: Myron Medcalf of ESPN)

Suspended Louisville freshman Brian Bowen retains attorney to seek reinstatement

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Louisville freshman Brian Bowen has retained an attorney to fight his indefinite suspension after the FBI revealed evidence that the McDonald’s All-American was paid improperly to attend Louisville, according to a report from Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Bowen has hired Miami-based attorney Jason Setchen to fight the case as Setchen has experience dealing with college basketball scandals before. When DeQuan Jones was suspended from Miami after the Nevin Shapiro case in 2011, Setchen helped Jones re-gain his eligibility as Miami. After Miami originally announced a season-long suspension for Jones for the 2011-12 season, that was later reduced to 10 games with the help of Setchen.

There are some major differences in those two cases. While not named directly in the FBI’s report released last week, Bowen’s recruitment — and subsequent payment from adidas and Louisville — is broken down in great detail to the point where it was known that Bowen was the recruit. When Louisville began practice on Saturday, they also confirmed that Bowen was indefinitely suspended from the team as he is unable to currently practice with the team. Bowen remains on campus and is still enrolled at the school.

And while Jones was accused of taking $10,000 for going to Miami from Shapiro, a former Miami booster, you have to tack on another zero with Bowen’s case. Bowen’s infraction has also already cost Rick Pitino his job, so nothing about this Louisville case is looking good at the current moment.

The loss of a five-star freshman like Bowen will certainly hurt Louisville on the court as he’s a productive perimeter threat capable of scoring or handling the ball. Bowen might have taken the proper steps to try to rejoin the team at some point this season, but the Cardinals should likely prepare to play without him for the foreseeable future.

CBT Podcast: College basketball corruption scandal costs Rick Pitino his job

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Today’s episode features interviews with Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. In Rob Dauster’s conversation with Parrish, the pair discuss the process with which a reporter will be able to dig up a story like the corruption scandal that exploded in college basketball this week. Then, Louisville beat writer Jeff Greer joins the show to break down everything that is happening and has happened with Louisville over the course of the last six days.