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How Pitino Can Survive

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It’s been a tough week for Rick Pitino. And what a contrast with his arch-rival, John Calipari: While Cal got to pal around with the Pope, the University of Louisville basketball coach was forced to respond to the release of a new book that alleges a former assistant paid prostitutes to have sex with Cardinal players and recruits.

While Pitino and U of L athletic director Tom Jurich wisely jumped out in front of the story, holding a press conference in which they conveyed both their disappointment and determination to obtain the truth, this crisis appears far from resolved.  The salacious nature of the accusations — combined with Pitino’s own personal history with sex scandal — is irresistible manna from the zeitgeist heavens for both the mainstream media and the blogosphere. And it’s widely expected that new revelations (texts, pictures, videos) will feed the talking head and tweeting beasts for weeks to come.  Pitino’s current vow of silence about the Cardinal sins may not be sustainable.

Worse, these allegations could prove more than simply embarrassing to the ball coach.  If there is any modicum of truth behind them, not only could U of L team eligibility be implicated, but criminal charges could also potentially be filed.

While I find myself, like much of KSR Nation, instinctively rooting against the Cards at every opportunity, I’ve moved past my hard feelings toward Rick personally, choosing instead to remember his role in restoring our Cats to greatness.  In that spirit, I’ve gathered my team of recovering politicians: With crisis management skills forged as former targets of the piercing glare of the national media spotlight, we advise clients on managing and surviving public crises like this.  Below, my colleagues share guidance from their own painful experiences, as well as a few of our  twelve step mantras to counsel Coach Pitino:

Be First to Frame Your Narrative in Your Own Voice, with Facts and Sincerity

Michael Steele, the former Republican National Chairman, can sympathize with Pitino’s particular circumstances:  Steele found himself embroiled in a high-profile national sex scandal when he discovered that an underling had used the Party’s credit card to pay for entertainment at a lesbian-bondage-themed strip club.  Steele survived the crisis by stepping out early before the cameras with a candid explanation for the circumstances, and a sincere rebuke of the staffer who created the mess.

Steele suggests the same approach for Pitino:  “Never sell short the power of getting in front of a narrative,” Steele advises.  “The coach will likely find himself with a lot of lawyers telling him not to say anything, ‘Let us do the talking.’  But hunkering down behind legalese can be very harmful to your interests and your reputation.”

If indeed Pitino was not involved in the wrongdoing, Steele recommends that he is clear not only about his own innocence, but also his disapproval:  “He needs to let the public know that he is as outraged and disgusted by this behavior as everyone else.  He cannot look like he is protecting the wrongdoers or the institution.”  Steele recommends that Pitino be strong and resolute:  “He needs to let folks know his willingness to get to the bottom of things, that he wants to straighten this out more than anyone else.  Most of all, that he recognizes the severity — that these athletes are teenagers, somebody’s sons — and the actions taken toward them are offensive.”

Own Your Own Mistakes, Take Responsibility and Sincerely Say “I’m Sorry”

Former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton found his political career derailed by a sex scandal that resembled Pitino’s 2009-10 imbroglio:  He was accused of wrongdoing by a woman with whom he had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship.  Ultimately, the charges were dropped, but Jetton’s path toward career rehabilitation was aided by the personal responsibility he assumed, and the sincere contrition he showed, for putting himself in the compromising position that led to the charges.

Jetton sees a similar path for the coach: “Pitino might not know of anything like this going on — I sure hope that’s the case,” Jetton states.  “But even if he wasn’t directly involved, he was ultimately responsible for hiring and supervising the assistant who did this awful stuff.”

Jetton urges Pitino to sincerely apologize for his actions and inactions that ultimately resulted in the malfeasance: “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ — and saying it with true and honest conviction — is the first step to recovery,” Jetton argues.  “Pitino has to admit where he was wrong, and own up to his mistakes.  People can forgive a sinner.  They can’t forgive someone who refuses to take responsibility for his program.”

Lean Into, and Learn from, Your Crisis

Former Kentucky Secretary of State John Y. Brown, III never experienced public scandal in politics, avoiding it perhaps because of the lessons learned from his youth.  At 22, Brown was battling the bitter demons of alcoholism, but now three decades clean and sober, he uses what he learned in his lowest moments to help mentor and counsel others through struggles with addiction and other challenges.

Brown suggests that anyone coping with a public crisis must acknowledge clearly that he has learned from his own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others in his charge: “If wrongdoing is uncovered, it must be acknowledged and addressed head on — in fact, embraced as a defining event; and immediate action must be taken to rectify damage done, and sweeping concrete steps taken, to ensure it cannot happen again.”

Brown also advises complete openness and honesty as a clear signal to the public that you understand the underlying message: “As a general rule, when serious allegations are made against a person or institution and any parts seem credible, a response is required of complete candor, transparency and full cooperation with an unwavering commitment to see where the facts lead. If this is done, the public will usually withold judgment until the facts bear out what actually happened and didn’t happen.”

Tell the Truth: Don’t Even Go Near the Line

Jeff Smith, the former Missouri State Senator whose recent book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is climbing the bestseller list (and I reviewed for KSR here), offers the most powerful and poignant advice:

Don’t lie!

Smith was involved in a minor wrongful campaign finance scheme that if discovered would have likely resulted in a small fine and an embarrassing news story.  But when he signed a false affidavit about the incident — and was caught admitting it on a wire worn by his best friend — Smith was forced to serve a year and a day in federal prison.

Smith strongly urges Pitino to learn from his own example; and if the coach was aware of any element of the wrongdoing, even a small one, he can’t expect others to take full responsibility: “As I learned painfully, one way or another, the truth always comes out,” notes Smith. “That’s because if an organizational leader knew about something, at least one other person below him/her knows that he knew it. Probably more than one. And if the leader was involved in a decision in any way, the subordinates will likely feel compelled to talk, eventually. Whether for legal, moral, psychological, or reputational reasons, they may seek to minimize their own culpability by revealing or even exaggerating the leader’s. As tempting as it may be for a leader to hope that his case will be different, and his secret will remain hidden, the odds are not good.”

Smith concludes that the coach must clear the air immediately, forcefully and completely: “That’s not to say Pitino is guilty of anything, but if he knew anything about this, he should say so immediately. And even if he truly didn’t, he still should take responsibility as the head coach and organizational leader.”

Article written by Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller, The Recovering Politician (Twitter: @RecoveringPol), writes about the politics of sport and the sport of politics...and sometimes about bourbon. Jonathan has been elected twice as Kentucky's State Treasurer; practices as a crisis management attorney; authored three books on faith, public policy and crisis management; serves as a Contributor to The Daily Beast, played straight man on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; reached the final table of the World Series of Poker; and with his summer camp sweetheart, raised two remarkable twenty-something daughters.

51 Comments for How Pitino Can Survive

  1. bbn4LIFE
    8:13 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Screw pitino!!!!! Screw louisville!!! I hope the ncaa rains down hell on them dirty bastards!!!!!! Most immoral bunch of jokes to ever walk the earth. The university and their fans deserve everything that’s about to happen !!!!!! Go cats!!

  2. Smyrna_Cat
    8:32 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Wow, Jonathan. We have missed you. There hasn’t been this big a pile of total crap nonsense since … well … since the last time you wrote something.

    What do you do this? Why do you bring up something that could be interesting, then completely ignore it and talk about politics, card playing, or bourbon? (Nothing wrong with good cards or bourbon, by the way.) And did you really need to revisit all of the meanderings of your politician friends?

    This whole blurb was silly. Why? Because it is Louisville. When have they ever cared about such things? Why didn’t you wrote about all the times they have ignored what would be a reason to fire a coach at other universities? It is Louisville. They will probably give Pitino a raise.

    And welcome back. It has hard to find such amazingly nonsensical writing, even on the Internet, where trained monkeys run amuck. (Amuck, amuck, amuck.)

    • Wow
      9:27 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      You REALLY hate the Left, don’t you?

    • Smyrna_Cat
      9:58 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      WOW … no, I hate incompetent hacks like Mr. Miller. Hack. Hack. Hack.

    • Wow
      10:03 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      So angry…. Smh.

      You should start your own site. I bet it would suck.
      Suck. Suck. Suck.

    • Smyrna_Cat
      10:50 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Is that you Mr. Miller? The only thing worth than a hack is a stalking hack. Stalk.

    • Wow
      10:53 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Says the guy who posts vitriolic comments on EVERY Miller post.

      The ironic part is, the more you overzealous, right-wing loony-tunes post on his articles, the more popular you make him!! Hahaha! Its a win-win for Matt, Mr. Miller and KSR!! Kudos.

    • Luther
      1:57 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      Interesting that Miller cites mainly republican examples. Why not the cockroach Clintons??

    • Smyrna_Cat
      11:10 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      WOW … (Mr. Miller, or Mr. Miller’s family member) … you are clueless. I point out how stupid these posts are … because they are stupid. Stupid.

    • Wow
      12:18 pm October 5, 2015 Permalink

      And now you are insulting a man’s, who you’ve never met before, family. You are a real piece of work.

      Here’s a little tip for you, Mr. You-Aren’t-As-Smart-As-You-Think-You-Are: both the right wing and the left wing belong to the same bird. You honestly believe that any side is doing ANY better than the other? You are living in a fantasy dream world if you truly believe so.

  3. catgrad7072
    8:39 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Tell the Truth: Don’t Even Go Near the Line

    Fat chance! Telling the truth has always been a problem for Pitino. There’s now way he starts with the latest scandal.

    • catgrad7072
      8:39 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      oops. no way.

  4. GroundControlToNumber9
    9:04 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Jonathan Miller, can you write an article on how we save ourselves from you?

    • Rixter
      10:46 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      I’m amazed at how many of you took the 10 minutes to read this post, then complain about it. Unless this is your first time on the site, you know what Jonathon Miller writes, and you know how he writes. He’s long-winded, sure. But I do find him to be a good writer, he puts much thought into his posts.
      I decided long ago that he’s not my cup of tea, so I simply stopped reading his posts ( I thought today’s might be interesting).
      Bottom line, if you don’t like the author, for God’s sake just don’t read them!! Problem solved.

    • Smyrna_Cat
      10:52 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Yes. We know what Mr. Miller writes. We know how bad it is. We post here because we want him to go away. He is the one person that writes on this site that doesn’t seem to know a thing about UK sports … or cares to.

    • Matt Jones
      10:55 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      The more you post, the more he remains

  5. Truth might hurt!
    9:08 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    It is fun to see UL and their fans squirm and twist in the wind taking blow after blow, but I think Rick knows that advice may not be good for his employment if the allegations are true. If the parties in the dormitory are true I don’t see how he can escape ‘not knowing’ it went on. If he can be implicated even by ‘should have known’ or ‘lack of control’ no amount of truthfulness can save him from the NCAA. Another thing for Rick to consider is who outside blind loyal fans are going to believe him. They/we won’t believe him even when he says he is contrite and apologizes for ‘mistakes’.

  6. Begonepolitics
    9:25 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Really? Politics and buddy butt kissing on KSR
    This crap is like cancer, ozone in you can’t get it
    out we have enough politics everywhere seriously
    Stop, just please stop.

  7. bob
    9:26 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Why on earth would they have to hire hookers? Can’t being the big man on campus get you laid at UL? Makes no sense to me. I’d think that there would be all kinds of hot sorority chicks lining up to be with the UL basketball team? Hard to believe that is true. If it is, it’s pretty stupid.

    • Ha!
      9:28 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      LMAO. Pitino and Jurich’s days are numbered.

  8. Danny Mac Boy
    9:28 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Heck Louisville should have fired Pitino after being drunk and bonking that slut in that Italian restaurant. A man his age being drunk in public and then doing the nasty in a public place – MY GOD!!! What kind of morals do the UL administrators have? NONE!!! Not only Pitino should fired but also Jurich.

    And I’m sure as hell never going to eat the alfredo sauce at that restaurant!

    P.S. – Why no mention of the biggest horn dog of all – the Hillbilly Whore Hopper – Bill Clinton.

  9. John
    9:35 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    This ‘article’ is pointless. Lol

    • Billy from Hazard
      9:37 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      I agree. It would have been much better if he just said “F you, illegals and gays! Now, lets build a wall at our borders!”

  10. Leuther
    9:40 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Stick to sports, Matt!!! Unless its a radical right wing agenda piece, I don’t want to see this mindless drivel on here! #RhitePower #Trump16

    • L1C whore
      11:35 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Son, go back to the Card Chronicle. You guys need to huddle together in this time of sorrow.

      So only one Republican mentioned in blog? Or did Mr. MILLER chose to not mention the others are all Democrats. I’m confused. Does this guy hang with all the criminals or what?

      QUICK RICK has covered his a $$ already. He is guilty, again. Rick knew this went on and now he is surprised?

  11. Zrex
    9:41 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    It would make perfect sense if this article were on a UofL site. So why in the world is it on here?

  12. brook childers
    9:43 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Jonathan Miller……. A legend in his own mind….please go away….AGAIN!

  13. The Real LindaS
    9:46 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    I think one thing people don’t think about is that this also looks bad for the city. It speaks volumes of what is wrong with athletic programs but what does it say about our city where a woman is allowed to get away with this? Why didn’t someone speak up even if it was anonymously? We know if it had been our beloved University someone on the Lex Hearld or even the CJ would have had a hint. If it was so well known on campus, surely someone heard who could have stopped it, that is, if they wanted to stop it.
    I lost all respect for little slick quick rick when he went to that school and with his hookergate in the fading, I guess they have to have another hookergate to keep them in the press.
    From other journalist it seems there are a lot of things in the initial reports, from the book, that are hard not to believe as being true. Some things are a little iffy, but a lot of people have a lot of explaining to do.
    With all of that being said, I think little slick quick rick needs to hang it up and leave the city with his tail between his legs. Jurich needs to go off into the sunset, preferably west of the Mississippi. Ramsey is old enough to retire, supposedly money was never important to him and he didn’t want the UofL job let him retire to Bowling Green where he started his career. Please, don’t go back to Fern Creek…..
    If the Commonwealth had not bailed out uofl in the 70’s when it was almost bankrupt and made it a state university we would not be having this conversation….I can think of a lot of other things to do with that property on 3rd St…maybe a home for ex-hookers who want to straighten up and fly right. Long live hookergate…oldest profession in the world.

  14. Redneck Cat Fan
    9:53 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    I’m a die hard Conservative,but I didn’t even read this artilcle.But I do no Jonathan Miller is a dang LIBERAL SO SCREW YOU JONATHON MILLER!!! AND THIS STUPID ARTICILE!!!!

  15. fireants25
    9:59 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    ^^^^^hahaha wtf check his basement^^^^^

  16. Smyrna_Cat
    10:00 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Mr. Miller. There were so many things you could have written about UL and Pitino that could have been (1) funny, (2) pointed, (3) in-depth, (4) sarcastic, or (5) entertaining. To made you picked (6) boring as my political cronies.

  17. Smyrna_Cat
    10:03 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Mr. Miller, Pitino “survived” the 15 seconds of phone with whats-her-face. And I believe UL supported him 100 percent. He encouraged and paid for an abortion, and the Catholic priest that sits on the bench didn’t say a word. I am sure he will “survive” just fine.

  18. Quinnytw
    10:25 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Jesus Jonathan. Quit being so smug with your word usage. You’re audience is mostly kentuckians. Half of us didn’t make it out of high school dickhead.

    • Redneck Cat Fan
      10:30 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      SCREW YOU QUINNYT!!! You don’t need to be abel to read no wordy books to work in a mine!! We keep your damn lites on!

  19. Bill Johnston
    10:30 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Jonathan, While your piece didn’t bring anything new to the table, the advice is solid and good. Even though what you said should be common knowledge, it very often is completely ignored; which demonstrates that your advice is worth stating over and over. Other than the topic being the person (Rick) to whom you directed your advice, I really don’t understand the harshness of the comments directed toward you. Liberal or Conservative or whatever, this topic has nothing to do with political leanings.But then, some will use any occasion to attack – whether it makes sense or not. This will be interesting to watch as it drips out.

    • Dude
      10:40 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      “I really don’t understand the harshness of the comments directed toward you. Liberal or Conservative or whatever, this topic has nothing to do with political leanings. But then, some will use any occasion to attack — whether it makes sense or not.”


  20. The Real LindaS
    10:41 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Bill Johnston, thank you for that….I was going to say something about the comments also but knew they would get all over me for being a female. They were rude and embarrassing that their IQ’s are not higher than pig’s mud hole. I think some of these people say things just to show their big red butts…they have no sense or any idea who J Miller is and his IQ is higher than all of theirs put together.

  21. Tej
    10:42 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    UL retained Pitino after his scandal. UL hired Petrino with knowledge of his sordid personal history and his lack of loyalty and character. So, if the accusations here are indeed true, to assume that Pitino will not be able to survive this too may be wrong considering the past decisions of those who will determine his fate.

  22. James
    10:43 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Skeletor will get another raise from Jerkitch and Petrino looking for some coeds to molest.

    U of smeL

  23. James
    10:48 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    When the Tards 2013 banner comes down, it will be used as a tablecloth and 15 second wipe rag at Porcini’s.

    Back to 1985 Tards – hahahaha!

  24. Texas Cat Fan
    10:53 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Good article Jonathon.

    No UL fan here. Saddest part of this, though, is that the NCAA will act on this in a manner that sweeps a far worse issue at UNC under the rug.

  25. Catdog
    10:54 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    No words of wisdom from the scandle ridden law breakers Bill and Hillary Clinton?
    Oh, sorry that would not look so good to mention since those two are still heroes to Matt and Mr Miller.
    This UL story is a parking ticket compared to the Clintons.
    No one who still supports them has any right to mock a basketball coach.

    • Brian
      11:12 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Define ‘scandle’, please.

    • Texas Cat Fan
      11:18 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Wow, get a life.

    • Brian
      11:34 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      “This UL story is a parking ticket compared to the Clintons.” – No shit, Sherlock.

      Catdog the type of dude who forgets that this is primarily a sports website.

      But seriously, let’s think about all the GOOD things George W. did while he was in office….

  26. 15 Seconds a Slave
    11:00 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Yawnnnnn. Too long; didn’t read. If I wanted to read a book I’d buy the Cliffs Notes from Kennedy’s.

  27. Ronald Dockery
    11:04 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    It is strange how most of the comments have been so negative of Rick Pitino and UL. It’s important for all the facts to come out. And, if anyone currently on staff is culpable. then they must face the consequences.

  28. The Real LindaS
    11:09 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Why do so many of you have to air your political agendas? Bill, Hilary, Trump, Geo or anyone else has nothing to do with this.

  29. Dave Shelton
    11:40 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    LOL, 46 comments and counting!!! Keep up the good work, Mr. Miller!

  30. Echo1
    6:42 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    Pitino is probably just confused about what they did wrong.

  31. kycager
    5:53 pm October 5, 2015 Permalink

    Jonathan, while i am a big time fan of your writing and commentary, and wholly respect your intellect and intelligence. the sentiments of many of the respondents above rings true….crisis management is not the interesting theme here. This is big time stuff, sex, underage sex, MONEY, prositiution, under age prostitution, Money-Underage Sex – Prostitution – Mother Daughter Minor Recruit Player SEX IN THE BASKETBALL DORM!!
    there are so many victims and perpetrators here the head spins!
    The real story is not the survival of the paid talking heads and professionals involved.
    The real story is WHERE DOES THIS STOP?
    This stuff is beyond NCAA it is CRIMINAL.
    But they won’t.
    That is the real story.