Rick Pitino is one of the most brilliant x’s-and-o’s tacticians that we have seem in the college basketball ranks in the modern era.
He’s also damn near untouchable at this point.
Pitino was fired on Wednesday morning, the end result of a two-year stretch where he couldn’t escape the scandals tied to his program. First, it was an assistant coach buying strippers and sex workers for underage recruits and members of the team. Then, on Tuesday, the FBI dropped a bombshell, linking a program that was easily identifiable as Louisville to a recruit that was easily identifiable as Brian Bowen that received $100,000 from Adidas to enroll.
And with that, Pitino had to go.
There was no other option.
So what happens with Pitino?
His legacy is tarnished. Permanently. There’s no coming back from this, even if there’s a good chance that he and the University end up in a legal battle over the remaining seven years and $55 million on his contract, or what is reported to be $44 million buyout. His plausible deniability ran out when a member of his staff was recorded by an undercover FBI agent involving himself in the pay-for-play deals, which were brokered roughly six weeks after the NCAA decided that they were going to take down the banner that Pitino hung in 2013.
I’ve been told that there is a chance Pitino could get back into the business, that this does not necessarily mean the end for him as a college basketball coach, but it is still probably too early to speculate on that. For starters, the man just lost a job that he was at for 16 years, that he expected to retire from at the end of a contract that would pay him in the mid-eight figures before it was all said and done. The idea that anyone, including Pitino, has even considered the possibility of what comes next is foolish. If someone says they know what he’s thinking, they’re don’t know what they’re talking about.
And that’s before the NCAA investigation.
Pitino was the head coach of a program that was caught by the FBI facilitating a $100,000 payment to a player! Two years after he was the head coach of a program had an assistant providing underage recruits and players with strippers and sex workers! A member of his staff was quoted by the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York as saying they had to be careful because the program was on probation and they could not get caught!
Something is going to come from that.
The NCAA is not going to leave that alone.
And while there may be a point in time in a year or two where Pitino would want to coach again, will he even be allowed to do so?
Maybe TV is the answer, then. ESPN hired Bobby Knight. They hired Bruce Pearl. Pitino would be good on TV.
And that may end up being the answer … if Pitino actually wants to work again anytime soon.
Who knows whether that is the case.