I feel for Rick Pitino. I really do.
Never mind he’s now the former coach at Louisville, Kentucky’s main rival in the Bluegrass. Never mind the fact that he led Kentucky from probation to jubilation. Never mind that he’s a Hall of Fame coach who won’t be able to leave his profession with dignity, because of a recent recruiting scandal that ultimately cost him his job.
Pitino’s fall from grace is indicative of how sex, money and power don’t discriminate. It led to the downfall of PTL, Jim Bakker’s empire, one he spent a lifetime building only to see it crumble into mass ruins overnight. What could have been a masterpiece turned into a disaster, all because of corruption, lies and deceit.
Although Pitino isn’t a televangelist, his rock-star status as one of college basketball’s most successful coaches, having won a national title at two different schools in the same state, is well-documented. He’s a good coach, recruiter and motivator. He won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1996 and added another in 2013 with the Cardinals. That’s not an easy task and Pitino proved it could be done while coaching two rival programs.
Since he’s been at Louisville, the demands of running a high-profile program proved to be harder and more difficult for the Hall of Fame coach to maintain. One scandal led to another, then another and the hammer dropped when the FBI stepped in last month.
Pitino survived an extra-marital affair, a prostitute scandal, but not an alleged pay-for-play scheme that sent shock waves not only locally and regionally, but also nationally. Once a mystery, “Coach 2” turned out to be Pitino.
His athletics director, Tom Jurich, a staunch defender of Pitino from beginning to the end, could also lose his job because of failing to keep tabs on the men’s basketball program that seemingly lacked institutional control from top to bottom. His fate, like Pitino’s will be decided this week.
Since the scandal broke, many have cheered the demise of Pitino for various and obvious reasons, while others cheer on Louisville’s downfall, which spilled over onto the football field when the heavily-favored Cardinals fell to Boston College last weekend.
One should never wish for the demise of others, no matter the circumstances, because as Pitino ultimately found out, pride precedes the fall. Thinking of yourself or a university as greater than thou doesn’t produce humility.
Based on the evidence thus far, Pitino deserved his fate, but that doesn’t mean to celebrate his dismissal. Although he probably stayed longer than he should have at Louisville, my hope is that the scandal brings Pitino a healthy dose of humility, wisdom and understanding.
We all could use that from time to time.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.