In an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas, former Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino said he had no involvement with activities that led to a federal probe into corruption at his school.
Pitino was fired Monday by the University of Louisville Athletic Association about three weeks after Louisville said it was being investigated by the FBI about its involvement in a case where a Louisville recruit was paid $100,000 to come to the school. The FBI is conducting a national bribery probe into college basketball. Ten people, including an Adidas executive, were arrested. Pitino is not named in the federal complaint.
At a meeting with the ULAA, Pitino’s attorney argued for 45 minutes that his client had no knowledge of payments to recruit Brian Bowen or his family and couldn’t have known. Steve Pence even produced results from a lie detector test that Pitino passed.
After Louisville fired Pitino, Adidas sent an email to the Associated Press stating that had it had ended its personal service contract with the coach. Pitino sued Adidas Tuesday, one day after he was fired, saying the sporting goods company “outrageously conspired” to funnel money to the Bowens without his knowledge.
In the interview with Bilas, Pitino said: “I have no knowledge of any of this,” and said he’d passed the lie detector test. He said Adidas is largely responsible for what’s happened and the company has taken the love of the game away from him. He said he took ownership for two hires and said Adidas must take ownership for what it did.
Pitino said he feels he’s already been vindicated by his friends and family, who he said had been very supportive.
“The one person you gotta answer to in life is God,” Pitino said, “and I sit here today and tell you, should I have known that somebody walked into a hotel room? I don’t see how I could possibly know? I take ownership for who I hired and I take full responsibility for that.”
Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Eisenberg said Pitino wasted a chance to accept responsibility. “He should have said,” Eisenberg wrote, “that it doesn’t matter what he knew or didn’t know. He hired those staffers, and he’s responsible for anything that goes on in his program.”
View the full interview below.