Louisville extends Pitino through 2017; big raise coming
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)Louisville and coach Rick Pitino agreed in principle to a four-year contract extension on Wednesday that will keep him on the sideline through the 2016-17 season.
Pitino hopes the extension ends what he called unfounded speculation that he's considering leaving the Cardinals in pursuit of another job.
"My moving days have long been over," Pitino said. "I've been here nine years. It feels like nine days. Now I'm going to be able to end this career at the place I want to end it at."
Financial details have yet to be worked out, and the deal needs to be approved by the university's athletic association.
Pitino's current contract runs through 2013 and pays him around $2.5 million annually. Athletic director Tom Jurich said his goal is to make Pitino's new salary competitive with the top coaches in the country.
"I think as we move forward, it's very important for us to be stable," Jurich said. "We have a great coach at the top, we have an icon at the top and I don't think there's five coaches that are in the same discussion as coach Pitino so it's important we keep him."
Pitino is 220-86 at Louisville and 572-210 in 24 seasons at the collegiate level. He's the only men's coach to lead three different programs to the Final Four and has helped the Cardinals put together the second-best record in the Big East since joining the 16-team league in 2005-06.
The contract is also a vote of confidence in Pitino, whose personal life made headlines last summer when he apologized to an "indiscretion" at a local restaurant in 2003 with a woman later accused of trying to extort him for millions.
"I think it's much more than a show of public support," Jurich said. "This is a support that our athletic department believes in him, our university believes in him and he is the man that we want to lead us."
The new deal also moves up a $3.6 million loyalty bonus Pitino was scheduled to receive on July 1, shortly after Karen Cunagin Sypher's federal trial for extortion threats she made against Pitino is expected to go to court. He'll now receive the bonus on Friday.
Pitino, 57, said he's not as concerned about the money as he is squelching rumors that he is planning to leave.
He has been linked to NBA jobs in Sacramento and New Jersey in the past year -- reports that he has explicitly denied -- and hopes the new deal will send a message to recruits that he's not going anywhere.
"I thought when I first came here I'd stay 6-8 years and probably have one more move left in me," he said. "Then I realized that there's no other place that I would want to be. ... You can always find challenges where you are. You don't have to go elsewhere."
There were plenty of challenges to go around last season, when the Cardinals went 20-13 and lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament a year after winning both the Big East regular season and conference titles while coming within a game of the Final Four.
Pitino, however, said he's confident the Cardinals are close to getting back to the top of the conference. He says he's spent more time on the road recruiting this year than ever before, and has his eyes set on a 2011 recruiting class that he expects to be among his best ever.
He'll also have a new toy to show off when recruits come to town. The men's and women's basketball programs will move into a new $238 million, 22,000-seat arena in the fall, a building officials say wouldn't have been possible without Pitino's influence.
"There would not be an arena without Rick Pitino," Jurich said.
Though Pitino's raise will come from the athletic department, which is self-sustaining, university president James Ramsey said he understands the frustration of faculty members who have gone two years without a bump in pay. He said he's working toward finding a way to increase faculty salary, but feels Pitino is also worth the investment.
"Our basketball program is important in terms of paying bills for athletics," Ramsey said. "It's important to us from a government relations perspective, from a donor-relations perspective and from an alumni-relations perspective. In the overall scheme of things our basketball program is important to our overall future success."
The new contract will expire when Pitino is 64, though he allowed it might not be his final contract at the school. He has no plans to sign one somewhere else.
"The only time I'm going to leave is to retire," he said.