Rick Pitino ‘effectively fired’ as Louisville head coach

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Rick Pitino is done.

On Tuesday evening, roughly ten hours after his program was referenced in an FBI complaint that resulted in the arrest of four assistant coaches, two Adidas executives, an employee for an agent, an AAU coach and a financial advisor, Pitino released a statement saying that “these allegations came as a complete shock to me” and “I am committed to taking whatever steps are needed to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

Those were the last words that he would utter as an employed basketball coach.

Pitino was placed on administrative leave and “effectively fired” on Wednesday morning, his lawyer told the Louisville Courier-Journal, the fallout from a pair of scandals too much for one of the most powerful men in the sport to endure. His boss, athletic director Tom Jurich, was expected to receive the same fate, according to multiple reports.

A press conference with interim Louisville President Greg Postel will be held at 1 p.m. Pitino and Jurich will not be there. An official announcement is expected at that time.

A Hall of Famer that has been in charge of the Louisville program for 16 seasons, Pitino’s demise came as a direct result of a bombshell investigation report released by the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. Four assistant coaches and six influencers in the college basketball world were arrested, and while none of them were members of the Louisville staff, the program still managed to find a way into the mess.

Jim Gatto, a powerful Adidas executive, was one of the men that was arrested, in part because of a scheme that was devised to funnel $100,000 from Adidas to the family of a player that can easily be identified as Brian Bowen. That payment was made “at the request of at least one coach from [Louisville],” and another Louisville assistant was recorded as part of a conversation in which a Class of 2019 prospect was paid to commit to the Cardinals. During that conversation, per the release from the FBI, it was made clear: Louisville “was already on probation with the NCAA” and that “they would have to be particularly careful with how they passed money” to the player.

Why was Louisville on probation with the NCAA?

Because from 2010-14, a member of Pitino’s coaching staff, Andre McGee, was caught paying for strippers and sex workers for underage recruits and members of the Louisville team. The NCAA investigation into those allegations resulted in not only probation for the Louisville program, but, pending appeal, the vacation of Louisville’s 2012 trip to the Final Four and their 2013 National Title.

That came on the heels of an incident in 2010 where Karen Sypher, a woman who received a seven-year prison sentence for trying to extort Pitino over an affair the two had.

But this scandal is different.

With Sypher, Pitino strayed outside of his marriage. I’m not condoning that, but his personal life is his personal life, and in the end he was the victim of an extortion scheme, even if, as the ‘victim’, he was thoroughly humiliated in the eye of the public.

Pitino has told anyone and everyone that he was completely in the dark regarding sex-for-pay scandal that the NCAA ruled on earlier this year. I believe him. Even after the results of the FBI’s investigation were made public, I believe him. His deniability in that case is entirely plausible, and while it shouldn’t shield him from NCAA punishment – the rules are the rules – in my mind, he got a pass for that. He’s too smart to do what McGee did.

That’s not excusing Pitino.

But the salacious details of his personal life and the outright, blatant, institutional level of cheating that came to the forefront on Tuesday are two different things.

Here’s the truth: The reason that the NCAA changed their policy on head coach plausible deniability is precisely because of what Louisville did in that Las Vegas hotel room. Members of Pitino’s coaching staff facilitated a six-figure payment to at least one recruit through a shoe company. Pitino was not attached to it; the boss doesn’t get involved with the street-level dealings. No head coaches do, even if they implicitly or tacitly endorse it.

This is the dirty part of college basketball the NCAA has been trying to rid the game of.

Louisville is guilty. Pitino’s staff is guilty. That means Pitino is guilty.

It’s that simple.

He had to go.

And that’s sad to me.

Here’s why:

Pitino is one of the best to ever do it in the college basketball ranks. Hell, he may be the best coach of this generation. I don’t think that’s overstating it.

He’s won two national titles, one with Kentucky and one with Louisville. He’s won 770 games. He’s been to seven Final Fours. He may be the most important and divisive figure in the state that loves college basketball more than any other. He made Kentucky great again after a scandal in the late-80s involving then-Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton that left the program with two years worth of postseason bans. He made Louisville great again after the forgettable end of Denny Crum’s tenure, a four-year stretch where the Cardinals failed to win 20 games in a season.

And his career will be remembered as nothing more than an incident on a restaurant table, hookers in a dorm and the money paid to a player in a Vegas hotel room.

He’s not retiring. He’s being to be forced out of the game that he meant so much to, a pariah at both of the programs that he made relevant, that he took from the doldrums and led to a national title.

And that’s a shame.

Arizona PF Ira Lee cited for DUI

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Arizona sophomore power forward Ira Lee was been cited for driving under the influence on Saturday.

Lee was ultimately released, and according to the Arizona Daily Star he faces misdemeanor charges for failing to yield at an intersection, driving under the influence as a minor (Lee is 20 years old) and extreme DUI involving a blood-alcohol content above .20. Lee is set to be arraigned on September 10.

In a release the Arizona basketball program announced that the incident has been referred to the Dean of Students for review and “the Athletics Department is reviewing the incident for team consequences.”

As a freshman Lee served as a reserve behind starters Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic in the Arizona front court, averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. With Ayton and Ristic both off to the professional ranks, Lee is expected to be a key contributor in an Arizona front court that includes transfers Chase Jeter (Duke; sat out last season) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh), sophomore Emmanuel Akot and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Loyola celebrity nun Sister Jean celebrating 99th birthday

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CHICAGO (AP) — Sister Jean is celebrating her 99th birthday months after gaining national attention as chaplain of the Loyola-Chicago basketball team that reached the NCAA Final Four.

The university held a campus party with students and school staffers Tuesday for Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. The Catholic nun became a celebrity last March for her fandom and for praying before each game for her Ramblers — and for their opponents.

Schmidt says her health is better some days than others as she’s been recovering since last year from a broken hip. She received a number 99 basketball jersey and a birthday cake frosted in the team’s maroon and gold colors.

Players say they’re still inspired by her example.

Ramblers guard Marques Townes describes her simply as “Genuine, sincere, passionate, loving, caring, sweetheart.”

NC State PG Blake Harris granted immediate eligibility

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When former Missouri point guard Blake Harris transferred to NC State in January, the expectation was that he would not be eligible to compete until the end of the fall semester. However that will not be the case, as Tuesday afternoon NC State announced that Harris has been granted immediate eligibility.

Harris started nine of the 14 games in which he played at Missouri, averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 assists in just under 14 minutes per game. The addition of the former 4-star prospect gives NC State head coach Kevin Keatts additional depth and talent at the point, which is key given the up-tempo, pressure style the Wolfpack generally play.

In addition to Harris, NC State will also be able to call upon sophomore Braxton Beverly and junior Markel Johnson, with those two being part of a team that won 21 games and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015 last season.

In total NC State will have three transfers from Division I schools eligible to compete in 2018-19, with guards Devon Daniels (Utah) and C.J. Bryce (UNCW) ready to go after sitting out last season.

One player who will not be available for the Wolfpack this season is forward Manny Bates, with it being announced that he will redshirt after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Bates, a 6-foot-11 forward from Fayetteville, North Carolina, dislocated the shoulder in early August.

The NC State front court will be led by newcomers, with grad transfer Wyatt Walker (Samford) and junior college transfer Derek Funderburk among the options.

Xavier lands commitment from four-star big man

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Xavier picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2019, adding an under-the-radar prospect in Zach Freemantle, a 6-foot-9 forward out of New Jersey.

Freemantle currently ranks 129th in 247 Sports composite ranking, but will likely move up after a strong July landed him a handful of high-major offers.

He’ll join Elias King and Daniel Ramsey, two more four-star prospects, in Travis Steele’s first real recruiting class for the Musketeers.

VIDEO: You need to see this Zion Williamson mixtape

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Zion Williamson made waves across the internet over the weekend as we got our first chance to get a glimpse of college basketball’s resident Viral King in Duke’s exhibition trip up to Canada.

So with that in mind, let’s go back and look at Williamson’s mixtape from his senior season of high school. I’ve never seen someone make in-game windmills and between-the-legs dunks look so commonplace.