Senior Writer

Five for Friday: The good, the bad and the funny of Pitino case


Rick Pitino spent two days testifying.

I spent two days reading about it.

Let's do Five for Friday.

1. Did you follow Rick Pitino's testimony during Karen Sypher's trial?

Pitino hasn't seemed too affected by the ongoing case. (AP)  
Pitino hasn't seemed too affected by the ongoing case. (AP)  
I followed it in the sense that I read every word written, and the whole thing is equal parts sad and hilarious. Sad because some kid's mom is probably about to go to prison for extortion, hilarious because the details are difficult not to laugh at even while recognizing none of this is really funny. It's embarrassing for Pitino, but he put himself in this position, so I would never suggest people feel sorry for him. But what about Joanne Pitino, his wife? And Richard Pitino, his son? This has to be ripping them apart. So each time I start to crack jokes I try to remember that there's a lady in Louisville who must feel incredibly betrayed and shamed, and an assistant coach at Florida who's on the road recruiting while his father's mistakes are mocked publicly.

It's great theater, sure.

But when you take a step back, it's just depressing.

2. You still laugh though, right?

Of course. I mean, there's a future Hall of Fame coach on the stand testifying about how a woman "opened up" his pants, describing how he and Sypher had sex "very briefly" at an Italian restaurant, estimating that the entire encounter lasted "no more than 15 seconds." Whoa, what? Now I'm not saying I don't understand how sex could last no more than 15 seconds, I'm just saying I wouldn't admit it to the world. Me? I'm testifying 12 minutes and, worse comes to worst, taking a perjury charge. That's got to be better than every opposing student section yelling, "Hey Rick! Fifteen seconds left on the shot clock. But that's plenty of time, right? Hahahahaha!"

Who needs that?

But to answer the initial question, yes, I still laugh.

Like I said, it's funny.

Except it's not.

(You know what I mean.)

3. Is it surprising that Pitino's life as we know it remains unchanged?

I've thought about this a lot, honestly, and though I recognize this incident has changed Pitino's life forever, I can't think of a single coach who could come out of this as well as it seems Pitino will. He has admitted to an extramarital affair with Sypher, to financing an abortion for Sypher, to arranging for Sypher to be driven to the abortion clinic in Cincinnati, so on and so forth. And yet Pitino will remain married and the coach at Louisville.

College coaches have been divorced and fired for way less.

Larry Eustachy comes to mind.

Pitino's reputation is damaged, but everything else seems to be as it was before.

That's remarkable, really.

4. Is this affecting recruiting?

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.

For proof consider that Calipari will enter his second season at UK with his second straight top-ranked recruiting class, and Pitino simply won't be able to keep up because it doesn't seem like anybody other than maybe Duke, North Carolina and Kansas will be able to keep up. Calipari isn't a big problem to Michigan State's Tom Izzo or UCLA's Ben Howland because they operate in different worlds. Pitino, on the other hand, not only operates in the same world as Calipari, he operates in the same state, point being that the bar for Pitino at Louisville will be set wherever Calipari sets it at Kentucky.

And that's a tough gig.

I'd be more optimistic if Pitino were coaching at Arizona.

Or St. John's.

Almost anywhere other than 80 miles from Calipari.

5. So are you saying Pitino can no longer recruit?

That's not what I'm saying at all. Truth be told, I spent much of this month on the recruiting circuit, and there's not one bit of evidence that suggests Sypher's trial is harming Pitino with prospects. I'm sure they know about the trial and what's being said, but nobody seems to care. I bounced this opinion off recruiting analyst Evan Daniels and recruiting analyst Eric Bossi just to make sure I wasn't misreading things. Daniels agreed the trial has had no real effect. Bossi echoed that thought.

"I've not heard a word about the Pitino stuff making a difference on any recruit," Bossi said. "Not a word."

On that note, understand that Louisville already has three Class of 2011 prospects committed -- most notably Wayne Blackshear (ranked No. 4 in the Class of 2011 by Beyond that, industry sources are calling the Cards the leader to land AAU teammates Quincy Miller (ranked No. 9 in the Class of 2011 by and Deuce Bello (ranked No. 75 in the Class of 2011 by thanks to the hiring of assistant Tim Fuller. So Pitino can still recruit, clearly, but that's not my point. My point is that even if Pitino hauls in what would be a remarkable class all things considered, it'll likely still be trumped by the class Calipari assembles at UK -- a class that already includes Mike Gilchrist (ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2011 by and Marquis Teague (ranked No. 11 in the Class of 2011 by, and could ultimately feature at least two other consensus top 10 prospects.

Fair or not, that's an issue for Pitino because he'll forever be compared to Calipari. But who cares about that right now? All that's important at the moment is that Pitino is finished testifying, and it seems like he's going to, against all odds, come out of this mess OK. Most men would be divorced after such a public affair, but Pitino's marriage remains intact. Most coaches would be fired after such a public embarrassment, but Pitino's job is secure.

Is it possible to be lucky while going through hell?

If so, that's what Pitino is doing.

He's dealt with a lot, no question.

But he's fortunate to have endured it all so unbelievably well.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

Biggest Stories

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
Conversation powered by Livefyre


Most Popular Shop

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Under Armour Localized Flare Art Tech T-Shirt

2014 Notre Dame Under Armour Gear
Get yours today
Shop Now