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The Coach, His AD, A Provocateur & His Provocation

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An argument rages on

There are some arguments, to which there is essentially no resolution, back and forths that simply get carried on until lungs are depleted of breath.

Until then, the protagonists bray on.

These are common when the issues involved are local in nature and many people have a significant vested emotional interest.

I’ve just returned from my 31st New Orleans JazzFest, the original and sole focus of which from the get go was as a showcase for the indigenous music, food and culture of the Crescent City and Louisiana. But the economic realities of modern times have forced the festival, in order to survive, to feature big name acts with zero connection to the area, but are a draw for enough patrons to keep the Fest financially alive.

In the festival’s chatrooms, purists have railed year around about the situation for more than a decade. The Fest and the arguments proceed.

It was no surprise really that during Derby season, when the focus is usually on whether to buy the blue or pink patched Madras sportcoat, or which hat the size of a beach umbrella to wear on the 1st Saturday in May, that a new brouhaha broke out, when the winning thoroughbred was set down.

But this is Louisville, where basketball is the overriding passion of the populace but for two weeks a year, and the University of Louisville Cardinals are the beloved favorite of the city. Which brings me to the argument that will never end.

Even during Derby time, the fire was stoked yet again.

C-J columnist Ricky Jones wrote about the wrongful crucifixion (his position) of Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich in the Cardinal hoops scandal(s), the sordid facts of which we are all too familiar.

Jones is intelligent, an academic, head of department at U of L. Professor Jones is also a man of great opinion, which he is adamant about expressing, and he does not shy away from the provocative. I’d even offer that he enjoys the soap box.

Anyway, as if in hindsight it is now plain -- at least to the Prof -- as a sunny day that Jurich and Pitino were unjustifiably fired, Jones more than implied that anybody thinking otherwise is an idiot.

His exact words in last week’s opinionization: “Less than two years later, I think we can safely call BS on all of it.”

In response to which, I, a relatively intelligent fellow, retired attorney, former prosecutor, and one similarly never shy of standing on my soap box and sharing my strongly held points of view say, Bullshit.

(Which I spell out in its entirety, because, well, it seems it may resonate louder. It’s what the argumentative do to gain the edge. Or, so we would suppose.)

Awhile ago, some of my readers, tired of reading my sometimes passive aggressive, sometimes straightforward barbs about U of L’s former coach and AD, told me to give it up.

And, in fact, I declared I would broach the subject no more. But have unsurprisingly breached that vow several times. And do so again here.

Just as Professor Jones can’t give it up, neither can I.

Like the nemesis at sea that battled old man Santiago, I have taken the bait.

* * * * *

I have no intention to reiterate and then demur Jones’ position point by point. Feel free to google up his piece and read for yourself.

Essentially he says Pitino and Jurich should still be in their offices on the Belknap Campus, and those of us who think otherwise, are, well, uh, misinformed.

(OK, I will take issue with one of Jones’ positions. Jones claims the coach and AD were “professionally assassinated largely because of the ego trips of a small number of members of an illegally appointed university board of trustees shoved down the school’s throat by Kentucky Gov Matthew Bevin.” Whatever one thinks of Bevin’s maneuver, it was sanctioned as a legal move by the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Thus it was legal.)

As for the issues of Rick Pitino’s and Tom Jurich’s loss of tenure at U of L, I will simply restate my long held positions.

Pitino deserved to go. He should have been fired after disgracing the university when he had an extramarital dalliance in a banquet at Porcini.

He should have been fired after the Andre McGee strippers in Minardi Hall scandal, even if he was as he claims unaware. It was on his watch. And it was his second strike.

And he should have been fired, as he was, after it came to light that his assistants were in serious breach of NCAA rules, just a short time after the school became the first ever to have an NCAA hoops title taken away. Even if as he claims, he was unaware.

Firing Pitino was a no brainer.

Sending Jurich packing not quite so much. But, he didn’t do what needed to be done when it came to relieving Pitino of his duties, and thus bore responsibility, despite his incredible run as Cardinal AD, taking the school to previously unfathomable heights in college sports.

(Oh yeah, Jurich rehired Bobby Petrino, then, after not much football success despite having a Heisman Trophy winner, he extended his contract with an absurd buyout. So maybe he’d bagged his limit of swings and misses too.)

The two, frankly weren’t well served by their own large egos. Their actions indicated they had little respect for U of L athletic tradition, and that they believed the school wouldn’t survive very well without them. They were undone by hubris, it might be said.

But here’s the bottom line.

U of L remains under the gun for alleged transgressions occurring while Jurich and Pitino were large and in charge.

But there is that new Board of Trustees. There is a new school president. There is a new Athletics Director. There is a new basketball coach and staff.

And the swift action taken by that legal Board, and that “underperforming, mendacious interim president” might just save the university from such as the Death Penalty.

Jones makes the always awkward argument of look what other schools have done, and uses North Carolina, Auburn and LSU as examples. What I know is U of L acted, cleaned house, rid itself of the scofflaws and enablers, and that is something -- this guy’s opinion -- to be proud of and grateful for.

Is my argument more persuasive, more legitimate than that of Ricky Jones, or whatever you believe?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

-- c d kaplan