Richard Pitino defends father amid Louisville scandal
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota coach Richard Pitino defended his embattled father Wednesday, saying Rick Pitino had no knowledge of a former staffer allegedly paying escorts to have sex with recruits and players in a Louisville dorm.
"I know, and I told him this, ‘Put your head on the pillow at night and know that you did nothing wrong and that you certainly had no knowledge of this,’" Richard Pitino said Wednesday. "That’s the biggest thing that I’ve told him and tried to comfort him with."
Richard Pitino was asked about a scandal that surfaced after Katina Powell wrote a book that alleges former Louisville staffer Andre McGee paid her and several other women to strip for and have sex with recruits and players from 2010-2014. Richard Pitino, who is about to begin his third season as head coach at Minnesota, was the associate head coach for the Cardinals in 2011-12 before leaving to become the head coach at Florida International.
Rick Pitino has denied knowledge of the activities that Powell alleges in her book and Richard called the allegations "very surprising."
"I never ever heard any of that, saw any of that," Richard Pitino said. "That would have shocked any of us and that would’ve been addressed immediately. So it is surprising, but again, they’re allegations. We really don’t know the truth just yet."
Richard Pitino did say that, ultimately, it is the head coach’s responsibility to be aware of the recruiting practices of his staff members. He said that may not be easy or fair, but NCAA rules make it clear that the head coach must be aware of everything going on in his program.
"Do I think that (head coaches) know everything? No and I think it’s really difficult to do that," Richard Pitino said. "But it’s on us. And it’s always going to be that way unless they change the rules again."
Richard Pitino said he’s had several conversations with his father since the scandal surfaced and said, "it’s certainly difficult."
"I hate seeing him go through it," Richard Pitino said. "But at the end of the day I know that he had zero knowledge of any of those alleged things. And you kind of go from there. But time will tell. I think it’s a long way from knowing what the truth will be."
Richard Pitino said he is always talking to his players and staff about what is and is not acceptable, and the staff participates in meetings with compliance officers at the university every year so they are aware of what is right and wrong.
"I think it’s hard because you’re not always going to be with your guys," Richard Pitino said. "It’s a difficult situation. But that being said, it’s what we’re judged on. That’s the bottom line that every program deals with. Those are the rules and everybody’s got to live with it and it is what it is."
Despite his connection to the Louisville program during the scandal, Richard Pitino said he is not concerned about it tarnishing his program with the Golden Gophers.
"Not even a little bit do I worry about it," Richard Pitino said.