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Rick Pitino on what he knew, the impact of strippergate, and believing the appeal will “get it right”

Here’s a candid update letter from Rick Pitino to members of Friends of the Ville, a philanthropy group managed by the university. Pitino has assembled similar booster groups while coaching at Kentucky, and Boston. I’ve served on the board of DPF (Daniel Pitino Foundation) for about 15 years. My best guess is that more than $10 million has been raised since the 90s, with most of the money going to the Daniel Pitino Foundation to serve children’s charities. DPF was founded to honor the memory of Joanne & Rick Pitino’s son who died in his first year of life.

Here is Coach Pitino’s letter to our group:

“Friends of the Ville”

June 21, 2017

Dear Friends of the Ville

I am writing to you as close supporters and Friends of the Ville members. You are special to me and I realize you have endured a lot over the last two years. When the news first came out in 2015, it sunk my emotions to the lowest point anyone could possibly imagine. I write this letter to tell you and encourage you to keep your spirits high.

First and foremost, I believe that the truth will prevail and justice will be served. We hired Chuck Smrt to guide us through this process. As an ex-NCAA enforcement staff member, Chuck directed us on what to do immediately based on the findings of the NCAA enforcement staff and we did exactly what he directed. We took away a chance to possibly go to a Final Four and win a National Championship. We were ranked 11th at the time with an experienced team, and imposed scholarship reductions and limited recruiting contacts. Based on the nature of what one of our ex-employees did, the committee penalized us beyond reason for the charges that were presented against us.

Let me clear up the following and leave no doubt that this is the truth and the only truth:
• Billy Minardi Hall was built in memory of my best friend and brother-in-law who I lost on 9/11. If I knew of anything that was going on there that would dishonor his name, that person wouldn’t be able to get out of town fast enough.
• I was told during the process that I didn’t ask pointed questions. Well what does that mean exactly? I asked our staff if the recruits enjoyed themselves. What did they do? How did they like everything? I then met with their families for breakfast and asked the same questions. No, I did not ask the staff if they saw any strippers last night. I can assure you that if I asked Andre any difficult question, he would have lied to my face to avoid immediate termination.

For background, I was coaching the Puerto Rican National team in Mexico when reports of the book first broke. I tried calling Andre to see if this was true. He wouldn’t answer. I then called Kareem Richardson, my ex-assistant and Andre’s boss. I asked Kareem to get Andre on the phone with him (Kareem was the Head Coach of UMKC and Andre was his assistant). I got right to the point: Did you have non-students in our dorm? His response was a girl that he was dating brought one of her daughters and her friends and they listened to music with the guys. I then asked who is this woman you are dating? He said he met her at a convention. I then asked what does she do? His response after months of reflection was absurd. He said she is a party planner. I exploded on the phone, I said you brought girls into a dorm to listen to music because you were dating a party planner? Mike Balado was sitting next to me, I was yelling so loud that I started to feel sick. I hung up and he swore to me that nothing improper happened and that they were just listening to music. I called back and asked Kareem did he believe him? His response was “why would he lie, the truth will come out.” I then spoke to Kenny Klein and he told me that the reports within the book did not say they were just listening to music.

I bring this story up because that was a phone call where I was 1500 miles away. Did the NCAA enforcement staff believe that Andre would ever tell me the truth if we were face to face? Absolutely not. He would have lied and lie some more. He knew how much that dorm meant to me. He knew how sickened I would be by his actions.

Bernie Madoff fooled the smartest people on Wall Street, SEC, family, brokers and major hedge funds. There are no questions that I asked to even give me a small clue to what was going on. Security employees, managers, assistant coaches, fellow students and most importantly, Billy Minardi’s children, and my nephews, all lived in that dorm. They were all questioned by me, and not one had any suspicion of any inappropriate activities going on in that dormitory.

I am not concerned about the outside world and what they think. My players, coaches and employees who have worked with me for years know how I am with rules and total compliance to the NCAA. I write this to our fans to keep your heads high and believe that the appeals committee will get it right and our values will continue to instill the right things in our student athletes.

Over twelve years ago, I hurt my wife and family by doing some improper things. I paid a heavy price with them and The Lord. We, as a family, are closer today than ever before and my faith is stronger than at any point in my life. I’m in this game for one reason, and only for one reason: to teach young men how to reach their potential on and off the court.

You, our loyal Louisville family, can rest assured we believe in doing the right thing and doing things that are important in the eyes of God.

Rick Pitino

Cardinal Basketball – 2432 South Floyd Street – Louisville, KY 40209

Rick Pitino and Andre McGee
dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.