Pitino's offseason scandal won't affect Cardinals

BY foxsports • October 24, 2009

When Louisville guard Jerry Smith or his backcourt mate Edgar Sosa step onto the court this season, the last thing that will cross their minds is the trouble that plagued their coach Rick Pitino this past offseason.

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"We obviously care about Coach (Pitino), but Coach put it behind him and we've put it behind us," Smith said at Wednesday's Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden. "I don't see it being any distraction."

"It has nothing to do with basketball," added Sosa.

Like just about everyone else who plays big-time college basketball, all Smith and his Cardinals teammates really care about is winning games, putting up numbers and trying to get to the next level.

"Ballin' is all that matters to them," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

That's reality.

Pitino had a turbulent offseason, admitting he had consensual sex with a woman who was allegedly attempting to extort him for $10 million. The woman, Karen Sypher, said Pitino gave her $3,000 to get an abortion. The Louisville coach refuted that claim, saying the money was for health insurance.

The soap opera received more airtime when Pitino called an impromptu news conference against the advise of just about everyone around him, which caused an elevated national stir. He even took shots at the media for their coverage of the saga.

On Wednesday, Pitino was the lead story at Big East Media Day — with a throng of reporters awaiting his arrival.

"You all misread my press conference," he said. "I wasn't chastising you in the slightest way. I just really had enough, I needed to step up for my family, for myself and get something off my chest."

"Now I just really want to focus on basketball," Pitino added. "The best thing for me is to put it behind me. You all have had difficult times in your life that you've had to get through. I've gotten through it."

Well, not quite.

The situation hasn't been completely resolved, as no date has been set in the federal extortion trial against Sypher.

But the Cardinals coach himself has already dealt with the distraction before. Although not public knowledge at the time, it truly began last March, when Pitino began receiving threatening phone calls from Sypher and those close to her.

The results: A Big East tournament title (to go along with Louisville's regular-season crown) and an appearance in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight.

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