Jeff Eisenberg

Net Reaction: Should Louisville fire Rick Pitino?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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As embarrassing details about Rick Pitino's personal life continue to emerge from the Karen Sypher extortion trial, it has reignited the debate over whether the Louisville coach should be fired.

Some share my opinion it makes no sense for Louisville to damage its program and sever ties with Pitino now given that the trial hasn't produced any major revelations that we didn't already know last year. Others insist that Pitino's infidelity and the subsequent trial have been such an embarrassment to Louisville that the school has no choice but to cut him loose.

Here's a sampling of some of the strongest opinions on Pitino's future at Louisville from around the Internet:

Mike DeCourcy, The Sporting News: Since Pitino sat on the witness stand at Karen Cunagin Sypher's extortion trial last week and exposed himself to new and more profound levels of humiliation - all of it more or less self-inflicted, of course - there have been renewed calls for him to lose his job. That seems a curious reaction given that nothing we learned last week offered anything more than salacious detail to what already was a scandalous circumstance. ... To fire Pitino now would require Louisville to write a check of perhaps $15 million and to write off not only the recruitment of (Wayne) Blackshear but also top 10 prospect Quincy Miller, who strongly is considering the Cardinals. Given how adversely such a move would affect the business of Louisville basketball, it seems almost juvenile to suggest that Pitino be dismissed. And hasn't there been enough of that in this entire episode?

Jay Mariotti, For too many reasons to count -- including how he possibly can enter a recruit's living room and explain his actions to mom and dad -- Pitino should realize he has permanently undermined his credibility as an educator and do the right thing. He should resign his position as coach. But somehow, there is little chance of that happening. Even if Pitino and the school are being subjected to unprecedented humiliation in the sensational trial of Sypher, who is charged with attempting to extort him and lying to the FBI, the U of L administration backed him earlier this year by granting him a four-year extension and a $3.6 million longevity bonus. Seems there's a brand new downtown arena with seats and suites to fill, and rather than take a stand for integrity and decency, the university chose to absorb a summertime bullet in hopes the city will forgive and forget.

Seth Davis, I am not here to defend Pitino's behavior. Over the last 16 months, he was revealed to be to be a lot of things -- a fool, a cad, a liar, an adulterer and an egotist. In other words, a sinner. But allow me to remind you that he is something else as well: a victim. That's right, Rick Pitino is a victim, and of a potentially very serious crime. If Sypher -- who after all is the real defendant here -- is convicted of extortion and lying to federal investigators, she could be sent to prison for up to 10 years and pay a fine of $250,000. Pitino's actions may have been immoral, but they weren't criminal. ... I do not understand how people have used last week's events to justify new calls for Pitino to be fired. Broadly speaking, we have learned nothing new that we didn't know 16 months ago. All we got was some additional details that allow us to snicker.

Dan Shaughnessy, Pitino wins games. He's the most famous person in Louisville. He's taken the Cardinals to the Final Four and Louisville is getting ready to move into a new arena. College basketball is a very big deal in Kentucky. And so Pitino survives. This amazes me. Pitino holds a high position at a major public institution of learning. He makes millions of dollars and controls the lives of talented teenage ballplayers. He succeeds by going to the homes of high school ballplayers and telling parents that their sons will be in good hands in his basketball program. And Louisville does nothing in the wake of these admissions? A lot of college coaches have been dismissed for less. Everyone makes mistakes and private life is private life, but Pitino's position at a public university usually requires exemplary conduct.

John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader: Surprised about the sudden calls for Louisville to oust Rick Pitino, even if the loudest source of such cries is probably a blue-tinged contingent. The Karen Sypher trial is certainly embarrassing for the Cardinals' coach. But other than some salacious details, there has been very little new information concerning Pitino. If the school was going to dismiss Pitino, it would have done so when the scandal first broke last summer. It didn't fire Pitino then, nor will it now. Nor should it.

Ryan Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer: What Pitino did was embarrassing beyond anything else he could ever do, and he should be removed because of it. How is he the leader of young men he is supposed to be when he admits to doing something like this? Isn't he old enough to know better by now? He should be. Apparently he wasn't. And now, as the newspaper headlines fill the days with the stories of the scandal again, it continues to be embarrassing for Pitino and UofL. The stories will spin - they will say how the prosecution will prove Sypher was breaking the law, that she did similar things in the past and that we cannot believe what she says. No argument here. She's going to jail. But the damage is already done. Pitino was no saint - and now we know every little bit of it. He should have been fired for it.

Eric Crawford, Louisville Courier-Journal: It's hard not to revert to Beavis and Butthead mode when you're sitting in the courtroom and Pitino begins to point out, on a screen, where he was in relation to Sypher on the night of their encounter in Porcini restaurant, creating lines on a diagram of the bar like Jay Bilas drawing up a pick-and-roll on the Telestrator. But it is not a game, no matter how much you reduce the thing to its most lurid details. Behind the titters and the Twitters are lives, including those of some young people, and an entire community that doesn't deserve this ride on the Too Much Information Express - no matter how entertaining it is to some. For a moment on Thursday, after some contentious exchanges with defense attorney James Earhart, that became evident even with Pitino. Near the end of the cross-examination, Rick Pitino looked not like a polished witness but like a man who knew the price he was paying.

Gary Parrish, I think we'll all agree, when we look back in 10 years, that Kentucky's John Calipari did more to hurt Rick Pitino's recruiting than Karen Sypher ever dreamed. Sypher is the worst thing to happen to Pitino's personal life, but Calipari is the worst thing to happen to Pitino's career because having to work 80 miles from Coach One-and-Done is damn-near impossible. Calipari is at the bigger program, he has all the momentum, and elite prospects with a desire to get to the NBA quickly -- i.e., the overwhelming majority of elite prospects -- genuinely do want to play for him. Calipari can secure commitments from top prospects early. Or he can lure somebody else's recruits late. Doesn't matter.

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