Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin says former University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino is blaming everyone but himself for recent scandals at the university that led to his firing last year.

In a book published this week, Pitino railed against Bevin for unilaterally replacing all the members of U of L’s Board of Trustees in 2016, suggesting that the move was done at the behest of University of Kentucky boosters and ultimately led to his ouster.

In an interview on The Greg Dunker Show on WKYX in Paducah, Bevin said the book sounded “sad.”

“It sounds like the sad rantings of a person whose life has sort of fallen apart. It’s a shame, it really is,” Bevin said. “I don’t tend to read people’s hypotheses on things or fictional works and so I don’t imagine that’ll ever be on my shortlist of reading.”

Pitino was fired in October of 2017 after he was implicated in a federal bribery investigation involving basketball recruits and their families.

Pitino later sued the school, saying it had no legal justification for firing him because he didn’t know about the alleged scheme to bribe the family of a U of L recruit.

In a section of the sprawling tell-all book entitled “The Governor Who Would Be King,” Pitino called Bevin a “religious zealot,” and suggested that the governor meddled with U of L’s governance in order to boost his appeal with rival UK basketball fans across the state.

“Given the history of bad blood between the programs and the electoral pull of the Wildcat Nation, this theory doesn’t really seem completely far-fetched,” Pitino wrote.

Bevin overhauled the U of L board of trustees in June 2016, saying that the board had become “dysfunctional” because of a series of public quarrels with the school’s then-president James Ramsey.

The move was challenged in court by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear and a trial court judge eventually ruled against Bevin, saying the governor improperly “served as judge, jury and executioner of the incumbent Board.”

But the Republican-controlled legislature later passed a law expanding Bevin’s power to reorganize university boards and the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in Bevin’s favor.

Pitino said that the statehouse was “basically handing Bevin control over the Louisville Board of Trustees.”

“What initially had been an illegal maneuver was essentially legislated into a legal one,” Pitino wrote.

In an interview on WHAS Radio in Lexington, Bevin didn’t directly address Pitino’s accusations, but said the former coach “just sounds like a desperate, angry, bitter person who wants to lay blame everywhere but at his own feet which is where frankly so much of it belongs.”

Pitino won NCAA championships with the men’s basketball teams at UK in 1996 and U of L in 2013. The NCAA stripped Louisville’s championship title after findings that an assistant coach paid women to dance and have sex with recruits.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.