Pitino's press conference an error in judgment

Louisville basketball fans had every reason in the world to expect the worst when news broke this afternoon that Rick Pitino had called a 3 p.m. press conference.

A quick check of the possibilities seemed to hint that a resignation or leave of absence announcement was far and away the most likely stimulus. There had been no new major developments in the Karen Sypher saga, Pitino isn't allowed to comment on commitments or recruits, and he'd never before made such a grand show of scheduling news.

Turns out Pitino isn't resigning and he isn't taking a leave of absence, but he is very angry. An emotion he apparently deemed worthy of a five minute public tirade against the media, Karen Sypher, Tim Sypher and anyone else who has been following the story.

It was a diatribe very sharp, abrasive and emotional, and it begged one major question above all others: Why?

What exactly was Pitino trying to accomplish here?

The Sypher story had already been downsized from a The Day After Tomorrow natural disaster to that rain storm in Forrest Gump. Sure, it was something that was going to follow him around for the foreseeable future, but it was far from the monster that dominated the national news two weeks ago.

The motivation for Pitino's presser was apparently the story of the Louisville Metro Police Department releasing the tapes of Karen Sypher making her allegations against the head coach. There was no new information contained in the tapes, and the story hadn't made a dent nationally.

Pitino's response, on the other hand, has already shot the saga back onto page ones (or whatever the technical name is for the front page of web sites) all over the country. He took a small story and made it an enormous one, all while berating any and all people who were paying attention.

If Ted Kennedy had been miffed at Karen Sypher for stealing his thunder, then he's got to be irate with Rick Pitino.

Pitino's main point seemed to be that Sypher has been running all around town lying to the media and that it's ticking him off.

We know. Are you shooting for some sort of apology?

Pitino needs to realize that this isn't him vs. Sypher. There isn't anyone following this story even remotely closely who thinks the woman on trial should be held in high moral regard, but that doesn't mean Pitino's automatically going to come out looking like Jason Walton.

Yes, she's crazy and yes, what she did was illegal, but when you're the most high-profile public figure in one of America's largest cities and you have a family and you make the conscious - or semi-conscious - decision to nail some chick who you just met in a restaurant, you run the risk of having her turn out to be a crazy person who goes around town and sullies your reputation. You also throw away any chance of coming off completely sympathetic when the situation blows up.

Pitino seemed to acknowledge this fact when he apologized to anybody and everybody fourteen days ago, which made his words today seem even more bizarre.

The only coach to ever guide three different programs to the Final Four appeared more visibly rattled than he'd ever been on the sidelines. He failed to stay on point, his face turned tomato red, he said something about standing up for the dead, he looked like he might throw something if it were within reaching distance.

And it was all done to serve a purpose that remains every bit as unclear as it was just before 3 p.m.

Since this story first broke, Sypher has hurt her cause each and every time she's gone in front of a camera and opened her mouth. Today, for the first time, Pitino returned the favor.

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