So as you may have heard by now, Rick Pitino was the most recent guest on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. He was there to talk about his new book, but in discussing the book, I obviously asked him about a bunch of stuff that needed to be addressed. Mainly, his recruitment of Brian Bowen, his relationships with Jordan Fair and Andre McGee and whether he will ever coach again, be it in college or professionally.
Now before we get into the interview itself, I do think it’s worth mentioning one thing: I tried to go into the interview with an open mind. Admittedly I know that Pitino and KSR have an, umm, checkered history, but even though I work for KSR, I wanted to be fair in the questions I asked and the approach I took to the interview. Do I believe every word Pitino has said through the years about his role in the McGee/Bowen scandals? Absolutely not. Do I believe every word he uttered on my podcast? No. But again, he gave me his time, and while I wanted to ask tough questions, I did want to be fair with him.
So what were some of the highlights of the show and my broader thoughts overall?
Here are a couple key things – and to listen to the whole interview, you can click here.
Pitino sounds like a sad and defeated man
When word started to trickle out that I’d interviewed Pitino, a lot of you reached out and asked what I thought about my conversation with him. Truthfully, the No. 1 takeaway I had wasn’t on Bowen, McGee, truth or lies. It was on the fact that Pitino really does just sound like a sad guy right now.
Now admittedly, he has no one to blame but himself, either for breaking NCAA rules (what most of the public believes) or at the very least for hiring people who broke NCAA rules (which is his version of things). Ultimately no one is feeling sorry for him.
Still, when asked about his time away, he references several times needing to find a “new passion” beyond basketball. It’s clear he still hasn’t found it yet.
He insists there was no reason to see any red flags with Brian Bowen
When we started speaking about the scandals, I immediately began with Brian Bowen. I was particularly interested in the comment that he made when Bowen committed, where he said this was the “luckiest” recruitment he’d ever been part of.
Again, to be clear, this interview isn’t about whether I believe Pitino or not – but asking fair questions for those who doubt him. And this to me, is more than fair. After all, the guy has been involved in college basketball for more than 40 years. It doesn’t take that long being around the sport to know that five-star players don’t just fall out of the sky. Even if Pitino didn’t have proof something fishy was going on, it stands to reason that he should have questioned it.
Ultimately, Pitino stuck to the company line that the commitment only happened because Donovan Mitchell left and a roster spot was open, and that Bowen was “out of options.”
Personally, I’ll agree to disagree.
No five-star player is truly “out of options,” even if they aren’t necessarily good ones.
Two, if he didn’t ask more questions, it is my personal belief he should have.
He disputes Jordan Fair’s role in the Adidas scheme
Fair is the assistant coach at the center of the Bowen controversy, who was said to have been in a Vegas hotel room where the plan to secure Bowen for $100,000 was hatched. According to the FBI, Fair is even heard on wiretap saying that they needed to keep things “low key” because the NCAA was on Louisville for the Andre McGee deal from a few years before.
Pitino had a slightly different version of the events saying that when he talked to Fair, Fair claimed that he left the room as soon as he walked in and saw an envelope full of cash on the table.
When I followed up and asked point blank, “The FBI says they have Fair on wiretap saying to keep things ‘low key’” Pitino slightly changed course, saying that the truth will come out when trials begin in the next few months.
To me, it seemed like he was ducking the question. But ultimately, I’ll let you draw your own conclusion here.
Pitino briefly mentions Papa John and the governor
Again, just go ahead and insert your own commentary here.
Pitino says he wouldn’t believe another coach telling the same stories he is
Towards the end of the interview I ask Pitino point blank if he’d believe another head coach who claimed to be completely innocent after being caught in not one, but two massive NCAA scandals (not to mention an embarrassing personal one).
Pitino admitted he would not.
“As a layman looking back, no I wouldn’t believe him,” Pitino said, before then adding that if the same coach passed a lie detector test and put out a book similar to his own, he would believe him.
While Pitino quickly diverted from his original answer, it was one of the few times I felt genuine candor and honesty from him.
He truly does believe he’ll never coach again
Or so he says, claiming many times that this book is closure and the beginning of the next chapter of his career.
Personally I find it a little bit hard to believe, especially considering the number of times Pitino admits throughout the interview that he is struggling to find a “new passion” in life.
My guess is that we see Pitino on the sidelines again within the next couple years. I doubt – unless he’s cleared in the FBI probe – it’s on a college campus. But I do believe he’ll be on a sideline sometime soon.
Billy Donovan will be his first podcast guest
At the end we finally got to a more laid back portion of the interview where I asked him about his plans for the future. Pitino mentions his podcast, and gives everyone a sneak peek on what to expect: Billy Donovan will be his first guest.
No word yet on how to download the show.
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