COLUMN: Why Rick Pitino will survive the escort scandal

Rick Pitino (AP Photo)
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In order for Louisville head coach Rick Pitino to be fired as a result of “Breaking Cardinal Rules” being published, the school would have to come to the conclusion that the Hall of Famer knew about what the author of the book, Katina Powell, alleges to have happened, and that he knew about it while it was happening.

The ‘it?”

That Andre McGee — a former Louisville player, graduate assistant and director of basketball operations — was paying a woman to pimp out, among others, her three daughters to Cardinal players, recruits and their family members, and that her daughters, and the recruits they were servicing, were potentially under the age of 18 at the time.

Before we go any further here, we need to take a step back. Ignore the famous names and the salacious allegations for a minute. Stop arguing about the veracity of Powell’s claims, or the intelligence of McGee, or whether viruses can actually erase text messages.

Ask yourself this question:

Do you truly believe that Rick Pitino would have allowed a member of his staff to pay for potentially-underage hookers for recruits had he known about it?

Because in a week where everyone in the blogosphere is talking about Stephen A. Smith vs. Kevin Durant, the question that everyone in basketball circles is asking is how in the world can Pitino, who knows all-too-well about sex scandals, keep his job after this?


It varies depending on the school — the size of the city it’s located in, the popularity of the team, how recognizable the players are, etc. — but this is, more or less, how an official visit typically works at the high major level:

A recruit will fly into town with his family on a Friday. They’ll all be taken out to dinner by the coaching staff who will then leave the player with his host for the weekend. The staff is allowed to provide $40-per-day in cash to spend during the visit, but depending on how much of a priority that recruit is, the amount of cash that changes hands could be much higher.

If it’s a five-star recruit on the campus of a borderline top-25 team, there could a few hundred dollars given out by the coaching staff. If there are four or five recruits on an official visit at the same time, there might $1,000 that changes hands, all of it a step removed from the head coach, who is perfectly content to remain in the dark so long as it helps him get talent to coach down the road. What the host players choose to do with that money is up to them. Maybe they go to a club and ball out. Maybe they take the recruit to a strip club. Maybe they show the recruit how awesome it is to be a basketball player on a college campus by hopping from frat party to frat party. Some recruits are only interested in getting in the gym, opting to go workout with a teammate over hitting the party scene.

Whatever the case may be, what happens on those visits doesn’t differ all that much from what happens on any Friday or Saturday night on a college campus. Those players will have a few drinks, they’ll go to a few parties, they’ll flirt with a few girls and, at the end of the night, the recruit will head back to his hotel or he’ll crash with the player that is hosting him.

The next day follows a similar schedule. The recruit will usually get a tour of the campus, run pick-up with the team and have another meal with the coaching staff and his family. If the visit is in the fall it usually coincides with a home football game, meaning the recruit will get to experience a tailgate and a game from the student section.

It’s really no different than any other college weekend.

I say that to say this: the coaching staff goes out of their way to ensure that they don’t know what happens on these visits on the off chance it gets crazy. Taking the chance on a 17-year old drinking is bad enough. I’ve heard stories of recruits raiding collections of vintage Jordans, of recruits stealing laptops out of dorm rooms and cell phones out of the locker room of players that may potentially be their future teammates.

The staff wants the players and the recruits to have their fun. It is college after all.

They don’t, however, want to have their name involved if the recruit leaves with anything other than a hangover. And they certainly don’t want anyone letting the NCAA know about the cash that’s getting spread around.


Back in 2010, when Powell said in her book this whole mess started, McGee was a graduate assistant. Graduate assistants don’t make much money. At all. One GA from a top-25 program described it like this: “all I eat is ramen while I wait for the staff to take me out to lunch.” It’s akin to being an intern on Wall Street. The money is flowing all around you while you earn peanuts fetching coffee, running errands and trying to build your network.

Which brings me back to Pitino and his coaching staff.

Frankly, I would not be surprised if the money that McGee was using for the escorts came, in some form, from the Louisville coaching staff. Powell alleges that it was as much as $10,000 over a four-year period. Maybe the cash came from boosters and maybe it came out of McGee’s own pocket, but my point here is that it’s very possible — likely, even — that the money came from the coaching staff without the coaching staff knowing what it was going to be used for.

If the NCAA is able to prove that the allegations Powell laid out in her book are true, Louisville and Pitino are going to get hammered, particularly if they can directly connect the program to the money that Powell and her girls were allegedly paid. For Pitino, plausible deniability is no longer a way out in the NCAA’s eyes. Whether or not the head coach was involved or even aware of what was happening does not matter. The buck stops with him. If it happens in his shop, he has to pay the price as well.

But there’s a different standard when it comes to Louisville parting ways with a coach they currently have under contract until he’s 73 years old.

Let me be clear: assuming the stories are true, if Pitino had any knowledge of what was happening with Powell, her daughers and his recruits, he should be fired with cause. If he OK’d what McGee was doing, he may end up facing some legal recourse. This was, after all, prostitution. And again, Powell is not very clear about how old the people involved in these accusations were at the time they occurred.

I don’t, however, believe that to be the case. I don’t believe that Pitino knew that this was happening. Whether or not he knew his players were partying with recruits is a different story, and Pitino would be foolish if he didn’t know that there were going to be girls around on these visits.

But hookers? I just don’t see anyway that he would have been OK with that, especially when you consider that in 2010, when all of this allegedly started, Pitino was smack in the middle of the Karen Sypher trial.

One former Louisville player told me that this was likely all McGee, that, more than anything, this was a kid whose professional career in Germany was a flop that came home trying to look cool in front of former teammates. He was also trying to impress the staff with his ability to recruit, because there are few better ways to kickstart a coaching career than to get a strong recommendation from Pitino. McGee was looking for one of those.

But is that the truth? Is that what actually happened?

Pitino knows. So do Powell and McGee.

Me? The player I spoke with?

We don’t.

I do, however, have a hard time believing that Pitino would have knowingly allowed a former player-turned-staffer to supply hookers on official visits.

Powell is not the most reliable witness, and that she fails to present any truly damning evidence in her book is as relevant as any accusation she made. She knows a lot of names and she has a lot of details, but we’re relying on her word and a load of circumstantial evidence.

In other words, there are still layers to this investigation that need to get peeled back. It’s probably not going to be a quick process.

But barring some kind of evidence that Pitino knew what was happening at Billy Minardi Hall, I can’t see Louisville killing off a Hall of Fame coaching career because Andre McGee brought around the hookers his barber introduced him to.

Providence hires Kim English as next head coach


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kim English is just 34 years old, but has already moved around a lot in his coaching career, serving as an assistant at three schools over six years before landing his first head coaching job at George Mason in 2021.

It was going to take a special opportunity for him to pack up and move again.

“Every place I’ve been, I’ve wanted to stay there forever. I really want to stay at a place for a long time,” English said Thursday. “I’m sick of moving,”

He believes he has found that place in Providence.

English was named the Friars’ new head coach, ending a fast search by first-year Providence athletic director Steve Napolillo that was created after Ed Cooley left to take the job at Big East rival Georgetown.

English becomes the 16th coach in school history. Cooley resigned on Monday following 12 seasons. He complied a 242-153 record with the Friars that included seven appearances, but just three March Madness victories.

English was 34-29 in two seasons at George Mason, leading the Patriots to a 20-13 record this past season. It was the first time the school reached the 20-win milestone since 2016-17.

George Mason president Gregory Washington said it would begin a national search to replace English.

In English, the Friars get a hungry, young coach who has built his reputation on recruiting. He said his secret sauce finding players is simple.

“You work at it. You do it every day. You’re relentless,” English said.

He played college basketball at Missouri and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round in 2012. But his NBA tenure was short and he was waived in 2013. He had a brief stint with the Chicago Bulls in 2014 and also played two years professionally overseas.

English began his coaching career as an assistant under Frank Haith at Tulsa in 2015 and spent two seasons there before being hired by Tad Boyle in 2017 as an assistant coach at Colorado. In 2019, former Friars coach Rick Barnes brought English to Tennessee as an assistant coach and he stayed until being hired by George Mason

He feels as if he has found a kindred spirit in Napolillo, who sold him on the passion the administration and community have for the Friars’ basketball program.

The intel he got about Providence and Napolillo aligned with what he observed when he got the chance to meet him.

“His passion, his fire, his love for Providence basketball really speaks to me. It really spoke to me what he was looking for,” English said. “As a first-year athletic director to be in this situation and to go at it and not just do what other people may have been comfortable with. … That’s what you want in a partnership.”

English also said he’s impressed by facilities at Providence that he said are among the best he’s seen.

Napolillo said the reason he was able to move so quickly on the hire was because he heeded the advice of his mentors who told him to always be prepared to have to fill a coaching vacancy.

“You always need to have names in a drawer for any coaching situation. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. ”This year, as noise kept growing and growing, I had a list in my drawer.”

That list also included a Sports Illustrated article he saved from last year that listed some rising coaches. He can’t recall why, but for some reason he highlighted English’s name in the story.

English has already started working and began recruiting not long after signing his contract on Wednesday night, he said.

He also confirmed that Dennis Felton, one of his assistants at George Mason, will join him at Providence. Felton served as a Friars assistant under Barnes from 1992 to 1994.

In a Big East that is stacked from top to bottom with coaching talent, English feels as if the pieces are in place to build something special.

“I’ve had no reason to take a bad job,” English said. “I was a 20-something-year-old assistant in the SEC. I didn’t have to rush. If I’m going to have interest in it, it’s going to be really good.”

For him, that translated into being in a position to bring the Friars a national championship.

“If you want to win the big trophy, you’ve got to be in the big dance,” English said. “At the mid-major level it’s getting increasing harder to get to the big dance. This gives us an opportunity. If we are competing for Big East championships, we’re going to be in the show.”

Report: Notre Dame closing deal with Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry its new men’s basketball coach, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because contract details were still being completed and needed school approval.

Shrewsberry, in his second season at Penn State (23-14), led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and a tournament victory for the first time since 2001.

The Nittany Lions beat Texas A&M and were eliminated by Texas in the second round.

Notre Dame has been searching for a replacement for Mike Brey, who spent the last 23 season as coach of the Fighting Irish. He announced in January that this would be his last season with Notre Dame

The Irish finished 11-21.

Shrewsberry grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at Division III Hanover College in Indiana.

He was the head coach at Indiana University South Bend, an NAIA school located in the same city as Notre Dame, from 2005-07.

He later worked as an assistant coach at Butler and Purdue, with a stint as an assistant with the Boston Celtics in between.

ESPN first reported Notre Dame was close to a deal with Shrewsberry.

Armando Bacot says he’s returning for fifth season at North Carolina

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina forward Armando Bacot is returning to play a fifth season for the Tar Heels.

Bacot announced his decision Wednesday, giving North Carolina fans a bit of good news after the Tar Heels failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-11 Bacot is North Carolina’s career leader in rebounds, double-doubles and double-figure rebounding games.

Bacot led North Carolina to a runner-up finish in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and his decision to return was a major reason the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.

The Tar Heels didn’t come close to meeting those expectations. They went 20-13 and opted against playing in the NIT. Bacot earned Associated Press All-America third-team honors and averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

He averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in 2021-22. He capped that season by becoming the first player ever to have six double-doubles in one NCAA Tournament.

Bacot participated in North Carolina’s Senior Night festivities this year. He has a fifth year of eligibility because of the waiver the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Cooley takes over at Georgetown with lofty aspirations

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WASHINGTON – Ed Cooley’s task at Georgetown is to bring a once-storied program back to prominence in a competitive conference that has three teams still part of March Madness in the Sweet 16.

Cooley’s lofty aspirations go beyond lifting the Hoyas up from the bottom of the Big East Conference. After leaving Providence, which he took to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 12 years, he already is talking about trying to coach Georgetown to its first championship since 1984.

At his introductory news conference Wednesday that felt like a pep rally, Cooley said he wanted current and former players to envision cutting down nets and watching “One Shining Moment” with the nets hanging around their necks. He promised wins – many of them – and plotted a path forward that he knows will involve some tough times.

“It’s a process, and the process now, because you have a changing landscape in athletics, you’ll have an opportunity to probably move it quicker than you would have 10, 20 years ago,” Cooley said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s OK. Losing’s part of growth. But over the course of time, it will pay off.”

Georgetown has lost a lot the past couple of years under Patrick Ewing, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons. The team went 7-25 this season after going 6-25 last season and lost 37 of 39 games in Big East play.

While Cooley at Providence was responsible for four of those defeats, the 53-year-old distanced himself from Georgetown’s recent run of losing.

“I don’t have anything to do what happened yesterday,” he said. “My job is to move us forward from today.”

Cooley’s mere presence is an acknowledgement that Georgetown needed a major change to become relevant again. After late Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s 27-year-old run led to longtime assistant Craig Esherick succeeding him and then son John Thompson III and Ewing getting the head job, Cooley is the school’s first outsider in the position in a half-century.

His only connection to the Hilltop – beyond coaching in the Big East – is his daughter, Olivia, attending Georgetown. Cooley, a Providence native, said her desire to live in the Washington area played into his decision to leave for a conference rival.

It was certainly no accident that athletic director Lee Reed and school president John J. DeGioia used phrases like “new era” and “new chapter” when discussing Cooley. DeGioia said he believes Cooley will “uplift and restore this team” to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“He has a proven record of success,” Reed said. “We knew we needed a leader, someone who understood our identity and could reimagine Georgetown basketball to fit today’s unique basketball landscape.”

That landscape, including players being able to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) and more easily transfer schools, are the biggest changes Cooley has seen since landing his first head job at Fairfield in 2006. He expects to be aggressive, and given the high volume of Georgetown players coming and going via the transfer portal, could rebuild the roster in his image sooner rather than later.

“You have to find student-athletes that fit the way you want to play, your style of play, that fit you as a coach,” Cooley said. “We need to find players that can play for me that can attend Georgetown, not the other way around.”

Cooley acknowledged that some luck is needed but also stressed recruiting local talent to keep the best players in the region around. That’s just one building block to putting Georgetown back on the map, which Cooley wants the time and latitude to do.

“The word patience is always hard because everybody wants it and they want it right now,” he said. “Everybody wants it right now. Have a little bit of patience.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.