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Does the Pitino lawsuit create ongoing strife for the school and its fan base?

Rick Pitino is mad at me again. The former University of Louisville basketball coach and I are longtime friends but he has thrown hissy fits when I’ve publicly questioned him about sensitive issues. He even dropped me as co-host of his TV show for two years over tensions surrounding coverage of his affair with sketchy doughnut seller Karen Sypher.

Then there was the time I asked him if mounting evidence of strippers offering sex to his players and recruits would make him consider resigning. Pitino didn’t speak to me for a year and even avoided looking at me when we crossed paths in our St. Matthews neighborhood.

Terry Meiners with Bob Ley on Outside the Lines, ESPN, October 2017

Of course, I’ve gone on national TV and newspapers of record to defend Pitino over the years. I told what I know to be the truth and was never prompted to do it.

I know what I know and am not afraid to share it. Pitino stupidly got himself into the Sypher mess, was clueless about Andre McGee bringing strippers to the dorm, and made an adidas deal that benefitted him (and Tom Jurich) but it shackled the school from getting top level recruits.

Thems the facts through my lens.

The latest upheaval stems from Rachel Platt and me inviting WHAS Radio host Tony Vanetti onto WHAS-TV’s Great Day Live to talk about Rick Pitino’s forthcoming book and the drama surrounding the ongoing lawsuit.

A WHAS-TV viewer poll indicates that an overwhelming number of fans will avoid reading Pitino’s book.

Pitino watched the segment and texted me to suggest that there is “no need to have me on your show” if I am discussing fan fatigue related to him.

Wait, what?

In June 2017, Pitino contacted me to get on the air and tell the story of how snaring Brian Bowen “is the luckiest” Pitino has been in his 40 years of coaching.

Some would say today that maybe it wasn’t all about luck.

I believe Pitino when he talks about not knowing about the dorm strippers and that Governor Matt Bevin’s buddies David Grissom and “Papa John” Schnatter used their influence to push Pitino over the cliff at UofL.

Last week, Pitino asked to appear (“U want me to go on the record”) on my WHAS Radio show to answer UofL’s legal filings that claim he knew about payments to recruit Brian Bowen’s family.

Pitino will always have a green light to come on the air with me. He’s done it to promote his teams, camps, books, sell tickets to special events, and to brag about recruits.

He has sometimes appeared on competing shows and ignored me to get his message out. That’s OK. Competition keeps us on our toes.

On a personal level, I helped Pitino fund Minardi Hall construction and advised him on charitable donations even with occasional professional disruption between us.

I’ve also spent untold thousands supporting his foundation through golf tournaments and auction packages that were sometimes unfulfilled. So those thousands became donations, too. Again…that’s all good. Charity matters.

He once texted to ask why I had resigned from his Daniel Pitino Foundation board. Unbeknownst to me, I had apparently been removed from the board over some perceived transgression. Pitino had forgotten about it and needed my help with some new obstacle.

I’ve been happy to help Coach Pitino get his messages out over the past 25 years. That’s what I do for all newsmakers. Pitino’s voice is still an important part of an ongoing story.

Asking piercing questions, even of friends, is the very basis of journalism. We search for answers from people who make news.

After the contentious 2015 radio interview, Pitino spoke to the UofL fan base at the tipoff luncheon and declared that I “blindsided” him asking about his potential resignation.

Rick Pitino speaking at the University of Louisville basketball tipoff luncheon, October 2015

He went on to say he understood it was my job to ask him questions. He compared it to 60 Minutes host Steve Kroft asking tough questions of his friend President Barack Obama.

Even with that explanation, Pitino would not speak to me or even look at me for over a year. That’s how overly emotional people like Rick behave.

People complain to me nearly every day that they are tired of hearing about Rick Pitino or seeing references to him on newscasts because “we need to get on with Chris Mack’s team” and the future of University of Louisville basketball.

I agree that we need to fully support Coach Mack and his team but I disagree on the sentiment to ignore the newsworthiness of Pitino’s story. Millions of public dollars are at stake in the Pitino lawsuit against UofL. It’s a story we will all continue to update until the money issues are resolved.

Now steering his information elsewhere, Pitino is telling a local newspaper columnist that he plans to launch a podcast and will open a Twitter account.

Sensitivity to criticism is a problem for Rick Pitino. Hosting his own podcast will keep anyone from asking tough questions. If he actually opens a legitimate Twitter account, he will soon find that “fatigue” is the gentlest term lobbed at him.

Just read the comment thread beneath this Jay Bilas tweet.

People have moved on. The lawsuit with UofL will end. Rick Pitino and Louisville will go their separate ways forever. It’s a sad end for a mostly brilliant career.

Great Day Live, October 2014
dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.