Just read this fascinating article from Yahoo Sports Pat Forde as he sat down with Coach P and recorded his thoughts and insights. Very telling info that I felt I must share. Enjoy!
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On the wall outside the Louisville basketball locker room at the Yum Center, there is a big, framed picture from the happiest of times.
It’s from 2013, when the Cardinals won the national championship and visited the White House. Standing front and center is President Barack Obama, holding a Louisville jersey. Directly to his left is a smiling coach Rick Pitino. And directly to Pitino’s left is a face that has been covered with black athletic tape.
That would be Andre McGee.
You can tape over the former director of basketball operations, who is at the center of the sex-in-the-dorm scandal that will bring this overachieving Louisville season to a premature end Saturday. But that doesn’t make Louisville’s McGee Problem go away.
That problem has resulted in a self-imposed postseason ban. It is the focus of an ongoing NCAA investigation. And it is something Rick Pitino continues to wrestle with as he transitions into an offseason of soul-searching.
Here is the coach’s itinerary for the next several weeks:
• Coach the game at Virginia.
• Watch his son, Richard, coach Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament next week in Indianapolis.
• Pick an NCAA tournament bracket with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on ESPN the day after Selection Sunday, then ignore the tournament. Pitino said he won’t watch any of it.
• Meet with NCAA investigators sometime in March, if the schedule holds for their visit to campus to interview Louisville coaches and administrators.
After Louisville defeated Georgia Tech 56-53 in the final home game Tuesday night, Pitino told Yahoo Sports he will head to his house in South Florida to process what has happened, decompress, and decide on his future. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that he returns as coach of the Cardinals in 2016-17. I say that with the following caveat: betting on Rick Pitino’s employment has been a sucker play in the past. He can be as unpredictable as the weather in the Ohio Valley.
I believe the decision will be Pitino’s more than Louisville’s. If he wants to return, he can return – even with a suspension for lack of coach control seemingly likely. Whatever fallout occurs from this NCAA investigation – and we are still months away from any kind of closure – it seems unlikely at this point to lead to the Hall of Famer’s dismissal.
Athletic director Tom Jurich certainly seems to be in Pitino’s corner. And given the current issues at the presidential level of the school – a segment of the Louisville board of trustees was maneuvering to oust president James Ramsey on Tuesday – there actually are bigger administrative problems than Andre McGee. Believe it or not.
So the ball very much appears to be in Pitino’s hands. He could have a national title contender next year, or he could decide that it’s time to move on to a new challenge after 15 years here.
“The probability of me coming back is very high,” he said in his office at the Yum Center on Tuesday night. “Right now I’m fatigued mentally and emotionally. … It’s a matter of, is the University of Louisville better off without me? If I come to the conclusion in June or July that the school is better without me – I left the cupboard full at Kentucky, and the program didn’t miss a beat.
“Now the cupboard is full here. This is a great job. They can get a person to make people forget Rick Pitino in a day. But I have to decide, are you willing to fight and stay on? I’m willing to fight. I love teaching, love coaching, love this team. I’ve just got to get over the sadness of all this.
“I’m really saddened that a player of mine that I trusted and gave a break to would be involved in this. I’m saddened by it. I don’t understand any of it.
“I want to come back for these players. I want to come back for (star signee) V.J. King, who I told I would be there. I just have to get past the sadness.”
One thing Pitino said he will not do in 2016-17: coach in the NBA. An ESPN.com column Tuesday morning raised that possibility, but the coach rather bluntly knocked it down Tuesday night.
“I have no interest in coaching professional basketball,” Pitino said. “I don’t want to take over a bad job in the pros.”
So he can decide whether to keep a good job that comes with a lot of baggage, a lot of barbs from fans on the road, and a certain amount of taint associated with this scandal. But if Louisville’s severe self-sanction of a very competitive team this season mitigates future penalties, this whole mess could be survivable.
Which doesn’t mean the end of this season has been fun to endure. This whole basketball-crazed city has to get past the sadness that will finally hit home with full force next week.
That’s why, with nothing else to play for, Louisville staged a championship of sorts Tuesday night. Someone on Twitter likened it to a New Orleans funeral, and that seems apt – try to celebrate amid the sorrow.
Louisville did it up. It gave rings to departing seniors Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. It announced that the two graduate transfers, whose one shot at the NCAA tourney was scuttled by the postseason ban, would play in the NABC All-Star game at the Final Four in Houston. It played a Louisville-centric “One Shining Moment” on the big screen and the team stood and gazed at it, like it was the first Monday night in April. The only thing they didn’t do was cut down the nets in the Yum Center.
The school and its fans did their best to put a band-aid on a wound that is still hemorrhaging. But like taping over Andre McGee’s face, it doesn’t make the problem go away. The investigation and its fallout are nowhere near over.
Neither are Rick Pitino’s deliberations on his coaching future.