NEW YORK (WAVE) - Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino said Wednesday that his "heart is broken and shattered for" the players on Louisville's 2013 national championship team, as he addressed reporters in New York on Wednesday, a day after the NCAA upheld its order that UofL vacate that championship.
"To say I'm disappointed with the NCAA's ruling would be a gross understatement," he said.
The NCAA's decision stemmed from explosive revelations in 2015 by self-proclaimed escort queen Katina Powell, whose tell-all memoir detailed sex parties attended by UofL basketball players and recruits. Powell claimed she worked with basketball staffer Andre McGee, a former UofL player under Pitino, to arrange strippers and prostitutes for the parties, pocketing at least $10,000 for her services.
Pitino said the players and recruits shouldn't be penalized, as they weren't the ones who planned the parties. McGee and perhaps other staffers did, Pitino opined.
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"They had these reprehensible parties that should not have happened in that special dormitory," Pitino said, referring to Billy Minardi Hall, the UofL dorm named after the coach's late best friend and brother in law.
As he has done all along, Pitino maintained he had no knowledge of the parties.
"I have nothing to hide," he said. "Anybody who lies in today's world is a fool because the truth is going to be revealed.
"The NCAA cannot rewrite history by taking a banner down," he said. "I hope (UofL) will not give up its fight ... and file an injunction for that banner to not come down ... I wish (former athletic director) Tom Jurich and I would have had a chance to defend our case to the appeals committee."
Pitino spoke glowingly of his 2013 champions, talking about their hard work and dedication.
"These players dedicated their lives to try to win a national championship for all the right reasons," he said. "My heart breaks for them."
One misstep Pitino did acknowledge was that he hired McGee.
"If I made the wrong hire, it's on my shoulders," he said.
Two years after the Powell bombshell, Pitino's Cardinals were among several high-profile programs implicated in a far-reaching FBI investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption involving prized basketball recruits. The scandal was announced on Sept. 26, 2017, and Pitino was placed on unpaid leave the next day. He was fired in October, as was his former boss, Jurich.
Regarding that second scandal, Pitino also continued to maintain his innocence.
"I've run a clean program all my life," he said.
Pitino also spoke highly of Jurich, regarded as one of America's top athletic directors for the better part of two decades.
"We led three different conferences in grade-point average," Pitino said. "He's the best in the business, and he never even got a chance to tell his side of the story."