ESPN’s Dick Vitale has been Rick Pitino’s most ardent defender in the media, and he doesn’t think the legendary coach’s career should be over.
When Pitino and Louisville were originally connected to the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, Vitale says he left the now-former Cardinals coach asking him to resign.
Since that initial reaction, Vitale has come out in strong support of Pitino, blaming “bad hires” for the various scandals that have hovered over the last few years of Pitino’s career, and that the Louisville board has rushed to judgment in firing the coach before the entire FBI investigation plays out. He has also come out in support of fired athletic director Tom Jurich.
In an interview with the New York Post ahead of the start of the 2017-18 college basketball season, which tips off today, Vitale says that he thinks Pitino would be “a great hire” for another school.
Q: Will Rick Pitino coach again?
A: I agree with Geno Auriemma, who said (he) would hire him in a minute. The guy isn’t on probation anywhere he’s ever been. If there was someone looking to make a big hit, I think he would be a great hire. I really do. … He’s made mistakes, no doubt about it. I’ve made mistakes. I am sure you’ve made mistakes. I don’t know how hungry he would be. I know he misses this team because he had told me before any of this happened that this could be the best team he’s had.
“If I had a job opening? Yes,” Auriemma said Wednesday on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast, when asked whether he’d hire Pitino if the Hall of Famer called and asked to be an assistant coach under him for a year.
In a follow-up question, Auriemma was asked about concern over the baggage Pitino would bring.
“Well, I mean, everybody’s got baggage,” Auriemma said. “You know, what are you going to do? You know, he did his time. He’s serving his sentence. He lost a great, great job. And you know what? So what. That’s a life sentence? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
In the latest explosive piece of news from the FBI case, a newly unsealed indictment reveals former NBA referee and AAU coach Christian Dawkins says that Pitino, referred to as “coach-2,” agreed to direct payment to recruits.