Dredging up the Sypher trial again on a Louisville blog...probably ill-advised. But we saw some quotes from Pitino last Friday that are worth discussing here before we finally convince ourselves it's time to move on.
Andy Katz of ESPN.com spoke with Pitino last Friday after the trial and I'm still debating whether RP's new outlook on life is good or bad for Louisville basketball. Littered amongst Katz's story were several quotes from our humbled coach:
"I paid the price..."
And then got a contract extension. Ok so maybe he was talking about the emotional price paid by his family and the below-the-belt jab to his own legacy/ego. That pricetag is incalculable. He ultimately forced his son to move to Florida's basketball program, breaking up what was once a therapeutic reunion for Pitino after facing several family hardships in his past. Not to mention the fact that Lousville also lost a great assistant coach and recruiter. And only Joanne and the Pitino family truly know what the term victim means in this story, in addition to Sypher's.
"I used extremely poor judgment and I've made my peace with God and my family."
Rick sounds like Lieutenant Dan after his shrimpin' boat shouting match with God amidst Hurricane Carmen. Hurricane Karen cut off Pitino's legs in 2009 and this summer's trial saw the eye of the storm pass through Louisville. Next step: Invest in Apple. The Big Apple? The next great player at Louisville will come from New York City? No, wait, maybe the clue suggested by this loosely-constructed hurricane analogy points to the Windy City and a guard named Wayne. Let's move on.
"I had no choice in this fight," Pitino said. "I had to take it on. I didn't want this to go public, but she went to the news stations."
Legs = cut off
"The only thing I was concerned with was telling the truth. I taught my players over the last 30 years that if you tell the truth your problems will become a part of the past. If you lie, they are a part of your future."
Umm, let me stop you right there, coach. Telling the truth is a nice life lesson for your players if, say, you had come clean back in 2003 when you paid this woman $3K and arranged a trip to Cincinnati. Waiting until she extorts you for a little too much money to get this off your conscience was the right move. But it makes for better legal advice than life advice. Don't build motivational houses upon fault lines of the truth.
"When you're 57, you're not too concerned about yourself," Pitino said. "Your spirit becomes humble. I derive happiness from my family, my grandchildren."
The same people who are most affected by this tryst. Now there's the lesson for your players: your actions don't just affect yourself--they affect the whole team.
"I'm very lucky to be a part of Louisville and that's why I stay and why I work for them and for Tom," the elder Pitino said.
Eric Crawford got this one right in his column last Thursday--Pitino is very fortunate to work in Kentucky, the state where he is the national brand for a University's athletic programs (Charlie Strong is a Governor's Cup away from temporarily supplanting him) and a former national champion. Had he not been successful at Louisville and helped build a new basketball arena, perhaps Pitino's job wouldn't be as secure as Tom Jurich indicated during his post-trial press conference. But one can't discount the hard work Pitino did over the last 20 years in this state to put himself into such a fortunate situation.
"It has never come up," said Pitino of being asked about the case on the recruiting trail. "Certain recruits have said 'We're praying for you.' We've worked hard to get a great recruiting class. We've worked around the clock to make this a banner recruiting class."
This is probably true but even if it did hurt recruiting, he's not going to admit it. So while Katz's question addresses a topic worth discussing, Pitino's answer is irrelevant. By acknowledging the situation, the recruits are obviously well aware of the trial and while that may not be a big negative it certainly can't be a positive, can it?
"Every family has hardships," Pitino said. "I was a witness. I told the truth. I'll never discuss it again. I made an error in judgment. I've paid the consequences. My heart is broken, or what I have left of it."
I have no idea if this sentiment foreshadows a coaching trend, good or bad. However, if he's looking for a group hug, I think we'll all oblige on November 16th when the Cards face Butler in the KFC Yum Center's first [men's] basketball game.
He has paid the consequences and those consequences will be a part of his future, unfortunately. I'm looking at you, West Virginia basketball fans.
"I don't think I'm that significant," said Pitino. "There's only one John Wooden in this world. [Coaches] are not that significant. I derive my joy from my children and my grandchildren. Basketball is my passion and I love it and I love to see my players succeed. I'm here for them and my children. That's my passion."
Not that significant? Tom Jurich would disagree, recently calling Pitino an ambassador for the University and inferring that Pitino himself is our brand. That's exactly why this trial sucked for Cards fans and the reason it was so much fun for our rivals. Coaches are significant in college sports, Pitino knows that. I don't blame him for shifting his focus back to his family--the true victims--but come November make no mistake, he'll need our attention and adulation more than he's probably ever needed it. Anything less than a Final Four in his last few years at Louisville and I think the critics will argue that this trial took more than Pitino's heart--it extinguished his fire.
In Forrest Gump, only one shrimping boat survives Hurricane Carmen, propelling LT Dan to build a national brand in the aftermath of disaster. Can Pitino rebound from Hurricane Karen and rebuild his brand at Louisville?