Rick Pitino is revered in the basketball-crazy state of Kentucky, especially after he led the University of Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship in 1996. After four so-so seasons coaching the Boston Celtics in the NBA, he returned to the Bluegrass State, landing this time at the University of Louisville, UK's in-state rival, where he's led the Cardinals to the NCAA tournament in six of the eight years he's been there.
Now Pitino finds himself embroiled in scandal. The coach, who is married and the father of five, has admitted to a sexual encounter six years ago with a woman that led to her becoming pregnant, which resulted in an abortion and charges of extortion against the woman.
Pitino has publicly apologized to his family for his "indiscretion," adding that he'll continue to coach at Louisville "as long as they will have me." So far, school officials have not called for his head. University president James Ramsey said he was "surprised" but has offered no further comment. The Associated Press reports that Pitino's contract contains language that could lead to his termination, such as: "Employee's dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity," and "disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University."
Pitino is also a devout Roman Catholic who has a priest sit near the Louisville bench during games, and his involvement in aborting a child, even indirectly, likely will not sit well in a city that has a large Catholic population.
His attorney, Steve Pence, wonders why all the attention has been on Pitino instead of the woman who extorted the money from him. After all, Pence said, "The coach has done nothing illegal."
But regardless of his lawyer's opinion on his culpability or the actions of his church or the wording of his contract, what is the net effect the scandal will have on Pitino's players? Is he setting a good example to the impressionable young men he leads and mentors?
Incoming Louisville freshman Peyton Siva said Pitino's actions don't bother him at all. The player tweeted:
"Yo I ain't leaving. Rick['s] personal life is his life. He's here to coach me and is the best teach of hoop to me! So like the fans say, 'Go Cards.'"
Maybe Siva's lack of concern is the best reason for coach Pitino to step down.