Former University of Louisville head men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino publicly defended his reputation Wednesday, saying he would be “vindicated” by the end of the federal investigation into bribery allegations in men’s college basketball.
Pitino parried the public accusations in his interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas, which aired Wednesday night. In the interview, Pitino said he was sure he would be cleared of the FBI investigation without any charges. His lawyer said yesterday Pitino has been subpoenaed by a grand jury as part of the investigation.
In the interview, Pitino said U of L’s board of trustees — which on Wednesday voted to fire athletic director Tom Jurich — doesn’t represent the university.
“This board of trustees — locking me out of my office, telling me I’m dismissed before facts came out — let it develop. They’re not the University of Louisville. They’re a board hired by the governor to deal with the president’s situation awhile ago. They’re not the University of Louisville that I know,” Pitino said.
Pitino was fired this week by the U of L Athletic Association board of directors, not by the trustees.
He added that his reputation of being vigilant about his players and programs hurts the public’s opinion of him.
“Of course it hurts me. I want everybody to be proud of me. It hurts. But that being said, if I knew something was wrong, I immediately would’ve terminated anybody in that situation,” he said.
Pitino took responsibility for the staff he hired but said he could not have known about the ensuing scandals.
The Hall of Fame coach was fired after a federal criminal complaint alleged his assistant coaches partnered with Adidas to bribe recruit Brian Bowen into joining the program.
Adidas ended their contract with Pitino shortly after he was fired, prompting a lawsuit from Pitino.
Pitino told Bilas his interaction with Adidas was minimal, estimating he talked with representatives at the company between two and three times a year. He blamed the apparel company for much what’s been alleged in the FBI investigation.
“They took my love and my passion away from me,” Pitino said of Adidas. “They’re responsible for their actions. As I take ownership for two hires, they must take ownership for what they did.”
Pitino said he was unsure whether he would continue coaching. David Padgett was picked to replace Pitino in the interim, joining Vince Tyra as an interim appointment made under fallout from the FBI investigation.
Tyra was picked as an interim to replace Jurich, whom the board of trustees fired yesterday. A call for comment from the board of trustees was not returned at the time of this post.