Last October, Kristina Powell, a former escort for the Louisville Men’s Basketball team, wrote a book entitled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” which accused the basketball program for paying Powell $10,000 to bring strippers to perform for the incoming Louisville recruits.
From 2010-2014, Powell claims that the money was paid by former Louisville Assistant Coach Andre McGee, and the strippers performed for recruits 22 times over the five years. In addition, the NCAA issued a letter stating that $5,400 in “impermissible/extra benefits” were paid for the strippers to dance and have sex with the recruits.
In relation to this, Louisville University self-imposed penalties on the basketball program, including a postseason ban, reduction in scholarships, and the number of days they could recruit. Last week, the NCAA issued its own penalties, but not against the school, but against Head Coach Rick Pitino.
Pitino was charged by the NCAA with a “Failure to Monitor” the situation. In response, Pitino denied the allegations.
Via The Associated Press: “This man (McGee) made a mistake and we apologize for his mistakes,” he said during a news conference.
Louisville is one of the most prominent college basketball programs in the country, and Rick Pitino is a Hall-of-Famer and one of the best and most notable coaches in sports. Many top recruits look to Louisville as a destination school — but these charges suggest players are heading there for the wrong reasons.
When recruiting high school athletes, you bring them to your school and sell its prestige, the fact that many players have gone pro coming through it, its location, and many other needs and wants that may pertain to an individual. What you don’t tell them while their parents are there are their certain needs/wants outside of the classroom and basketball court. Allegedly, Louisville took advantage of those certain closet needs/wants, which in the NCAA’s eyes is a direct violation of their recruiting code and conduct.
Not only that, but you have to also look at Rick Pitino’s role in this entire situation.
Pitino has personally claimed that he actually tends to “over-monitor” everything that has to do with his program. So, as a legendary, Hall-of-Fame coach who has led many programs to great success, I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t know what goes in a department as vital as recruiting. Think about it, recruiting is a major part of all college sports programs, it’s what builds the foundation for them to win championships and receive notoriety and money for the school. Most of the programs money goes to recruiting, so I find it hard to believe that Pitino had no idea of what was going on with his recruits, especially with his tendency to “over-monitor.”
What also bothered me was how he referred to McGee as “this man,” as if Pitino had no respect for him and that this was all his fault. McGee used to be a player for Pitino and someone that he trusted as a player and person enough to bring him on as an Assistant Coach as many former coaches of players do. Was McGee at fault for paying the escort Powell to hire strippers to entertain recruits? Of course he was, but Pitino denying the allegations and disrespecting McGee in that way showed that he may not be the leader that we really thought he was.
First of all, as the head of any team or program, when things go wrong, you have to take ownership and when things go right, you have to deflect praise. That’s Leadership 101. Second, if you had complete control or if you “over-monitored” your program the way you claim to, then you’re mostly at fault as the “leader” because you obviously condoned and signed off on McGee using that money to hire the strippers. So now isn’t the time to deflect blame because on all fronts, you and your program look bad no matter which way you look at it.
If I were Pitino, I would own up to the mistakes made under my program and have to live with the penalties because they could’ve been a lot worse. The worst kind of allegation that the NCAA could’ve missed was a lack of Institutional control: This has been issued to programs such as Southern Methodist University and Syracuse University, where also legendary coaches Larry Brown and Jim Boeheim were forced to sit out nine games each and SMU was also issued a postseason ban.
All in all, it’s Pitino’s obligation to be the leader he claims to be. To do this, accept and take the losses that are coming your way for the betterment of your program. Don’t try to save face for yourself because you don’t want your own legacy to be tarnished. With all due respect, these allegations and the fact that it was your program that did it already puts a little dent in that legacy. It’s time for you to really become a leader now and see your program through this tunnel and into the light.
Do you think the charges against Pitino are fair? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3