Earlier this week, Rick Pitino grabbed the media megaphone and implored Andre McGee to speak out and tell the truth.
While I believe McGee's open discourse is best for the University and the UofL basketball program, it skips over a critical component for our understanding of the culture and circumstances surrounding the allegations.
Unfortunately for Rick Pitino, this layer is his legacy.
Somewhere in between Stefan Lefors' familt being deaf and Gorgui Dieng speaking five languages lies the narrative of the ‘Pitino Coaching Tree.' Donovan, Tubby, Van Gundy, Cronin, O'Brien, Pitino, Sendek...all apples that don't fall far from the hall-of-fame tree.
"I'm proud of my guys," Pitino told the New York Post in a 2014 article on his Coaching Tree. "We build bridges together. We'll cross them together. It's been awesome. I root for them all the time ..."
"When [Oklahoma State's] Travis Ford (who played for Pitino at Kentucky) and Billy Donovan and Steve Masiello and [Morehead State's] Sean Woods and all these guys coach, I sit at the edge of my bed and jump up and down like a cheerleader."
Since winning his second National Championship in 2013, Pitino has added two more branches to the tree, with Kevin Keatts and Kareem Richardson accepting head coaching positions. Both have had respectively successful tenures, receiving contract extensions from University of North Carolina-Wilmington and University of Missouri Kansas City respectively in 2015. Keatts even won the 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year Award along with winning the Regular Season Championship.
Now, in the light of the alleged scandal, it is time to shake the budding branches.
While numerous members of the Coaches Fraternity have stood up in defense of Pitino, both Keatts and Richardson have yet to issue a statement on the circumstances. Understandably, this might be at the advice of their current employer, legal counsel or both.
Keatts was the lead recruiter for the basketball team from 2011 - 2014. In 2014 he was named Associate Head Coach, with Pitino specifically highlighting his recruiting ability.
He brought new energy to the recruiting landscape, specifically with his connection to Hargrave Military Academy that seemingly resulted in Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock and Terry Rozier all committing to be Cardinals. All those athletes are now Louisville legends, but critical at this juncture is the fact that two of the three (Harrell, Rozier) were explicitly named by Katina Powell as being involved in transgressions over the four year period.
Maybe even more compelling is Keatts' relationship with former recruit JaQuan Lyle.
Lyle was the first current or former Louisville recruit or player to confirm "the gist" of Powell's allegations.
Keatts was Lyle's main recruiter and when he committed to Louisville, he referenced his relationship with Keatts as one of the driving forces in his decision. A 2013 story by Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal spoke with Lyle before his commitment and he referred to Keatts as "the best person I've ever played in ping pong". He goes on to say he's played Keatts over 10 times in the Billy Minardi dorms.
There has to be questions directed at the current head basketball coach of a public University who had the defining relationship with the one recruit who has validated details of Powell's story to the NCAA.
And then there is Kareem Richardson.
After one year (and one National Championship) at the University of Louisville, Richardson headed West to become a Roo.
The question for Richardson is about rue though. Does he rue the day he hired McGee because:
- He was unaware of his connection to Powell and alleged involvement in the allegations?
- He took such a giant risk at his first head coaching job by hiring a known less than savory assistant?
To be clear, I have no allegations. I have questions. Just like you. Just like Pitino.
While most, Pitino included, are clamoring for Andre to speak out, I want to hear from Keatts and Richardson. Based on their roles, it is fair to say they were much closer than Pitino to McGee and to the recruits. Beyond that, their success at Louisville has put them into incredibly desirable roles where they are now public figures and should have to address these questions head on.