Charlotte Hornets rookie forward-center Mangok Mathiang played four seasons for Rick Pitino at Louisville. Now it appears Hall of Famer Pitino’s run at Louisville is over.
The university placed Pitino on unpaid administrative leave Wednesday, and Pitino’s attorney said Pitino was effectively fired. Louisville is one of the schools implicated in an FBI investigation involving possible recruiting payoffs, involving ties to athletic shoe-and-apparel companies. Pitino has a long relationship with Adidas, which has been named in the investigation.
“Coach P is like a father figure to me. He has taught me a lot. He has brought me up from a boy to a young man,” Mathiang told the Observer following practice Wednesday. “I’m in (an NBA training camp) because of him.”
Mathiang was born in the Sudan and grew up in Australia. He came to the United States for high school at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he drew multiple scholarship offers.
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“I don’t know what’s going on with the program right now. I haven’t looked too much into it,” Mathiang said when asked about Louisville basketball. “I know how much I learned from Coach P. His coaching style speaks for itself.”
Mathiang said he isn’t aware of irregularities involving Adidas’ relationship with Louisville basketball.
“I just wore the shoes. That’s it,” Mathiang said. “I was there for school and there for basketball, and hopes and dreams to be in this (NBA) situation. I’m thankful that Louisville was a place that helped me develop my skills and to become a grown man.”
Mathiang and former North Carolina guard Marcus Paige are with the Hornets under the NBA’s new system of two-way contracts. That means they could play mostly for the G-League Greensboro Swarm this season while developing, and the Hornets can retain their rights.
Mathiang went unselected in the June NBA draft. He showed enough potential with the Hornets in Orlando summer league to earn a two-way contract.
“It’s opening a lot of doors to be involved with the NBA and get better within the team,” Mathiang said. “I’ve learned so much from the older guys, rather than wait a year or two to get that same chance” to be part of an NBA organization.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell