So it feels safe to say that Rick Pitino has been in the news just a wee, tiny little bit over the last couple weeks. You know, the whole “releasing a memoir that is supposed to detail everything, but instead didn’t actually tell us anything at all?” You remember that book, right? How could you forget.
Yet while “Pitino: My Story” has gotten all the headlines over the last few weeks, what’s gotten lost in the shuffle is that another Pitino book is set to come out two Monday’s from now. That book is titled “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino: A Story of Corruption, Scandal, and the Big Business of College Basketball” by noted author Michael Sokolove. And as you can imagine, it’s definitely got a different feel than Pitino’s own memoir.
With that said, I’ve actually gotten an advanced copy of Sokolove’s book. Here’s what you need to know:
The book shows the full scope of Louisville’s rise as an athletic power
Look, I’m sure that for most people reading this post know all about the back-channel, inner-workings of Louisville athletics. Still, for a guy like me, who follows this stuff but doesn’t live inside the state, it was a fascinating look into the rise of a big-time college athletics program.
It opens with Tom Jurich at the booster dinner where he announced that Louisville had agreed to that massive new deal with Adidas, but then backtracks to when Jurich first got to Louisville in the early 2000’s. From there we go through everything – from the new facilities that were built, to the funds that were raised, to the way that the school swindled the city out of Louisville out of a lot of cash when the KFC Yum Center was built.
That certainly isn’t the only element of the book. But again, as an admitted outsider, I did find it quite interesting.
The book also takes a look at the rise of big money in college sports
The more that I think back on this book, the more that I realize that while it is essentially about the rise and fall of Pitino, it is also about the rise of big-time college athletics with the Louisville scandal kind of serving as the story that brings everything together. There are blurbs about how mob money led to point shaving in the 50’s, the effect that the sneaker companies had on the sport in the 1980’s and 90’s, straight through where we are today with the AAU and sneaker culture of the mid 2000’s.
For a college sports junkie like me, it made for good background, and reinforced a lot of information that I had once learned, but long since forgotten.
Let’s just say that while Louisville might have perfected scandal, it certainly didn’t start with them.
They say "there are two sides to every story." I plan on getting to the bottom of both tonight ?? pic.twitter.com/9gwJqhQyHh
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) September 5, 2018
Speaking of scandal, don’t you worry, there is still plenty on Pitino
For all the background and context that this book provides, it still gives complete details on everything that led to the downfall of Pitino last fall.
And make no mistake, when I say “complete details” I’m not talking about the Brian Bowen stuff. I’m talking about details dating all the way back to the Karen Sypher extortion case, through Andre McGee and into the Brian Bowen stuff. And it isn’t just the whole, one-sided “It was one rouge assistant acting completely out of control” stuff that we’ve heard for years but actual, useful and factually correct information.
Point being, if you’re the type of person who is going to enjoy every sordid detail of all of Pitino’s scandals repeated in a slow, meticulous fashion, this book is for you.
The book has some interesting tidbits, at least for an outsider like me
Like for example, I had no idea that Pitino and Jurich essentially had no relationship outside of work. Given that the two will forever be tied together in history and given that both seem to have questionable judgement (Pitino in his personal protocol, Jurich in the people that he hired and then stood behind) I kind of just assumed they were buddies outside of work as well. Two peas in a pod, if you will.
Not the case. At least according to the book.
Another thing that I found interesting was that one of the few disputes the two had was when Jurich decided to re-hire Bobby Petrino as the school’s football coach. I’m not sure if this has ever been told publicly or not – again, I hardly claim to be an expert on Louisville athletics – but apparently when rumor started to trickle out that Petrino would return, Pitino tried to put the kibosh on it.
So why was Pitino so upset? Get this: Pitino thought that bringing back Petrino – who obviously had been fired for having an affair – would reflect poorly on him, and bring back to light conversations about his own affair with Karen Sypher.
Consider me shocked (I’m kidding of course) that Pitino would take something that has nothing to do with him, and make it about himself. Who could ever imagine that?
Credit to the author
Credit needs to go to the author Sokolove on at least one account: He tracked down both Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino for interviews.
Admittedly, none of what they said is particularly groundbreaking (Pitino stuck his whole “My only crime was hiring the wrong people” line) but at the very least, at least he attempted to get both side of the story.
Even if one side is very skewed.
And some final thoughts
In reflecting back on this book, my biggest take away is that this by far the most comprehensive thing I’ve read on either the Louisville athletics scandal or the FBI scandal that tore through college basketball last season. It gives just about every detail, from every angle, be it from the history of Louisville, the NCAA, Christian Dawkins, his associates, you name it. I blew through it in a couple days because I enjoyed it that much.
To be blunt, I don’t know quite how much a Louisville or Kentucky will truly “learn” from the book, but if you want an honest and fair recounting of what happened and how it all went down, pick yourself up a copy of the book on Amazon.