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"Pitino: My Story" hit the shelves Tuesday, and in its 257 pages, former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino offers a book that is partly a memoir and partly an impassioned defense to the tumultuous end of his tenure with the Cardinals.
Pitino's account of those past few years was laced with bitterness and resentment to what he views as a series of injustices toward him from the NCAA, the FBI and the leadership of the University of Louisville. Such an ending contrasted with the first portions of the book, which offered anecdotes and an entertaining look back through Pitino's remarkable career in basketball.
Whether Pitino will coach again (this, too, is addressed in the book) might be uncertain, but perhaps to that end, this is a work of a man clearly seeking to restore his reputation by offering a deep dive into his side of the story. In doing so, perhaps Pitino, as he wrote, can find peace in the circumstances.
"I don't want to create a never-ending bitterness," Pitino wrote near the book's end. "It's time to let go. It's judgment time. I've told the truth in this book. Now the big questions are whether Andre McGee, Jordan Fair or the people facing trails and possible jail time will tell the truth."
Sticking to his story on scandals and staff members
While Pitino offered a great deal of fresh and interesting background on Louisville's recent NCAA infractions case and the sport's ongoing FBI investigation, there was no new admission on his part for either scandal.
Pitino continued to emphatically insist he wasn't aware of the actions of former basketball staffer Andre McGee and former assistant coach Jordan Fair. He claimed responsibility for the mistake of hiring the two staff members, but he blamed each for acting on his own accord, McGee in his dealings with Katina Powell and Fair in the Las Vegas hotel-room meeting the FBI alleged was to conspire to pay a recruit.
"This may sound crazy," Pitino wrote, "but I'm actually more upset with Jordan Fair than I am at Andre McGee. Andre's actions were inexplicable and so out of character that I sometimes wonder if he was a sociopath or being blackmailed. I have no idea. Jordan, on the other hand, was repeatedly taught to follow the absolute letter of the law with regard to recruiting regulations. ... So the fact that he met with a roomful of scam artists is completely infuriating. Was he led astray by con men? Quite possibly. But he should have never been in that situation in the first place."
About the Kentucky Wildcats
Pitino's relationship with the University of Kentucky, where he won a national title as a coach, has long been complicated. And that was reflected here too. Pitino juggled happy memories of Big Blue wins in his past with the obvious conflict of coaching on the other side of a heated in-state rivalry for much of his career.
"Kentucky was Camelot," Pitino wrote. "Louisville was real life. It was filled with ups and downs, great friendships and betrayals."
When it comes to UK, however, Pitino suggested that the media attention on Louisville's scandals — as well as Gov. Matt Bevin opting to replace U of L's board of trustees — had to do with appealing to populism in the state for UK basketball. Pitino said the love for the Wildcats in the state "is rooted in any number of things: the dominance of Wildcats basketball, the history of the state, racism and Kentuckians' vision of themselves as rural folk as opposed to city slickers." As for the mention of racism, Pitino goes on to say that "the segregated past of Kentucky basketball still cast an ugly shadow on the school" and that the parents of some African-American recruits he tried to lure as UK's coach "were dead set against their sons playing at the Rupp Arena."
"My insistence that institutions can evolve — which is something I wholeheartedly believe — didn't always win over converts, and I can understand why," Pitino wrote.
College basketball's future
Pitino offered a somewhat grim view of the future of college basketball, writing that he believes the sport's "golden goose" — the NCAA tournament — "will be at grave risk."
Pitino said he liked the suggestions posed by Condoleezza Rice and the NCAA's Commission on College Basketball, including allowing student-athletes to profit from their likeness, but said he worries about the NCAA being too slow to act. While Pitino believes university sponsorship deals with apparel companies such as Adidas and Nike can benefit non-revenue college sports, he again said he wants to remove shoe company influence at least from grass-roots, or AAU, basketball.
"We are not getting shoe companies out of college sports," he proclaimed.
Pitino wrote that since his Louisville exit, his agent "has reached out when NBA openings have surfaced."
"We couldn't even get an interview," Pitino wrote. "I can't blame the general managers who turned me down. Louisville fired me so abruptly, it instantly created the impression that I must be guilty of something."
In this book, Pitino didn't sound like a man who wanted to be done coaching as much as a man simply growing resigned to that fate. He wrote he "will be knocking on doors" but added later "I don't think that opportunity will ever happen again."
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