Thursday, October 22, 2015

The mess in Louisville

I don't know if plausible deniability is a thing anymore in the age of inescapable information/misinformation. Or, if it is a thing, I don't know if there's a single human face you can put to it.

What I do know is this: That human face is not the one that looks at Rick Pitino in the mirror every morning.

I met Pitino some 20 years ago, right after he won his national title at Kentucky and was traveling the country flogging his latest book. Rumors were firing left and right that he was about to jump ship in Lexington for the Celtics job, so of course I asked him about it.

I didn't expect him to give me a straight answer. But I also didn't expect him to look me in the eye and flat-out lie, either.

"Why would I ever leave Kentucky?" he said, painting a picture of UK as heaven on the half-shell, and no place he would even consider leaving.

The next day the news broke that he was leaving.

This is perhaps apropos of nothing now that Pitino is in deniable mode again, claiming he didn't know nuttin' about all the pimpin' and whorin' going on right under his nose at Louisville. But every time he opens his mouth about it, I flash back to that day in the bookstore in Fort Wayne. And I am, shall we say, not persuaded.

Maybe there's a world somewhere in which the head coach of a major college basketball program would not know about strippers cavorting with recruits in the basketball dorm, but something tells me it's not this one. This did not happen just once, mind you. It happened dozens of times over a four-year period. Money changed hands, multiple times. No one really knows whose money it was, or how it was obtained.

It's a seamy tale inhabited by seamy characters -- the madam who blew the whistle, after all, was pimping out her own daughters -- which gives Pitino cover at least in the short term. But long term, no head coach survives something like this.

If Pitino didn't know anything -- especially in the age of all-seeing social media -- then he is so disengaged from his own program that Louisville would have cause to fire him on those grounds. And if, as I suspect, he did know something, then the school would not only have cause but no choice.

Either way, he's gone. It's only a matter of time, and what time will reveal.


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