In his first interview since being fired on Monday, former University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino told ESPN’s Jay Bilas once again that he had no knowledge of the alleged scheme to bribe recruits, while lashing out at the UofL board of trustees for how he was treated, saying “they’re not the University of Louisville that I know.”
Pitino said he could not have known that one of his assistants was involved in the scheme to bribe players, and he doesn’t answer to people who think he did know or should have known, as “I’m going to answer to God, and I know the truth.”
“I answer to my players, who have been over-the-top in support of me,” said Pitino. “I answer to my assistant coaches and my family. But the one person you have to answer to in life is God. And I sit here today and tell you, should I have known that somebody walked into a hotel room? I don’t see how I could possibly know.”
Pitino added that “I take ownership for who I hired and take full responsibility for that.”
Asked by Bilas how he felt about his treatment by UofL, Pitino took aim at the UofL trustees and said they were not representative of the school that he knows and loves.
“To me, this board of trustees, locking me out of my office, telling me I’m dismissed before facts came out,” said Pitino. “Let it develop. They’re not the University of Louisville. They’re a board hired by the governor to deal the president situation a while ago. They’re not the University of Louisville that I know.”
Pitino added that he harbored no bitterness for the university, though adding “the University of Louisville didn’t treat me that way, this board of trustees did. And a couple of them. I should put them all in one lump sum.”
While Pitino aimed his criticism directly at the board of trustees — and perhaps indirectly at Gov. Matt Bevin — it was actually the board of directors for the UofL Athletic Association (ULAA) that fired Pitino on Monday, which is a separate board whose members are not appointed by the governor. Additionally, the ULAA board’s vote to terminate the employment of Pitino for cause on Monday was unanimous.
UofL interim President Greg Postel made the decision on Sept. 27 to place Pitino on administrative leave — the day after the federal charges were announced by prosecutors in New York — before the trustees were able to conduct a meeting to discuss the issue. However, at the press conference that day announcing the decision, board chairman J. David Grissom said the trustees were “unanimous” in supporting that initial decision, saying that he had spoken to each individual trustee on the matter.
Asked who decided to lock Pitino out of his office on Sept. 27, UofL spokesman John Karman told IL “it’s standard HR procedure when someone has been terminated. Arrangements are made later for returning to the office, with supervision, to remove personal items.”
Asked about how much contact he and his players had with Adidas officials — two of which are defendants in one of the federal criminal complaints — Pitino said this was “very minimal.” Adidas recently dropped Pitino from his contract, which brought a lawsuit from the coach, who told Bilas that the company is responsible for what has happened to his career and reputation.
“I felt they were largely responsible for what’s gone on,” said Pitino about Adidas. “They took my love and my passion away from me. Not all of them. There were other reasons, one being one of my coaches, (they) took my love of my life away, besides my personal family … As I take ownership for two hires, they must take ownership for what they did.”
Pitino noted he has passed a lie detector test arranged by his attorneys and says he is “1,000 percent” sure he will not face any criminal charges in the matter, “because I know the truth.”
The former UofL coach became emotional when he recounted his last conversation with players on the current team, telling them to play hard for interim coach David Padgett. He also said he is not sure if he wants to coach again, and that his legacy as a coach is “really not important, because I’m not that significant.”
Pitino’s full interview with Bilas can be viewed below:
This story has been updated.