What a whirlwind 48 hours. What was once seen as a week to drown in our sorrows following the Florida loss developed into the biggest scandal in the history of college sports, with Rick Pitino as the face of it.
Pitino and Louisville AD Tom Jurich were both “effectively fired” this morning, but what happens next?
The Ringer’s Mark Titus wrote a column to answer the question of the hour:
“Will he be remembered more for lifting the program to a national title or for leaving it in a heap of wreckage after a glaringly scandal-ridden tenure?”
What will Pitino’s legacy be after the dust settles?
It remains to be seen what Pitino’s enduring legacy will be. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and paint him as the personification of what’s wrong with college sports, which isn’t to say that I want to make any excuses for the man. Pitino is a morally bankrupt coward who deserves every ounce of his comeuppance and who shouldn’t be allowed near a college basketball bench for the rest of his life. His latest scandal isn’t the most appalling of his tenure, but it’s a major scandal nonetheless–and likely to be major in the NCAA’s eyes. At some point even the most deluded university administrators realize that winning can only make up for so much.
According to Titus, today is a day we celebrate John Calipari for “outrunning his reputation as a cheater.”
Pitino likely won’t be the only major college basketball coach to get the boot in the aftermath of the FBI’s probe, and it’s possible that if the investigation touches enough universities, it could eventually implicate other top-tier coaches. But that’s not why Cal is worth mentioning here. On a day when Pitino’s coaching career probably ended for good, it’s striking to reflect on how much has changed over the last eight and a half years. There are lots of rumors that attempt to link Calipari to scandal, but he’s dodged them and carved out a legacy as the coach who revolutionized the one-and-done game and who produces draft picks like clockwork. Cal rubs people the wrong way, but he’s outrun his reputation as a cheater (for the most part) and is seen as one of the sport’s most influential coaches.
To conclude, Titus says Pitino’s sleaziness has overtaken his coaching success in the long run.
It’s often said that great coaches in college sports rarely go out on their own terms. Pitino, who went a combined 770-271 over his NCAA tenure, is the latest example. As recently as a few years ago, he was seen as Hall of Fame coach who also happened to be sleazy. Now, he’s seen as a Hall of Fame sleazeball who also happened to be a winning coach.
Above all else, the program he built up starting in 2001 may never recover from the events that occurred under his watch.
His reputation is forever tarnished, and the program he built may never recover from the transgressions that happened under his watch.
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