Former Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino continued to deny that he had any knowledge of an alleged payment from an assistant coach to the family of a high-profile recruit during the recruitment of the Cardinals player time, he told ESPN’s Jay Bilas in a wide-ranging interview that aired in its entirety late Wednesday.
In his first public comments since the scandal mushroomed and led to his suspension and then firing, Pitino, 65, said he was “flabbergasted” when he heard the FBI and Department of Justice had arrested 10 assistant coaches from high-profile programs as well as a high-ranking Adidas executive.
The FBI’s allegations against Louisville include payments of $100,000 to the family of an unidentified player, believed to be Brian Bowen, in a program run by a person only identified as “Coach 2” in court documents, widely identified as Pitino after Louisville admitted it was involved in the scandal.
However, Pitino told Bilas that he took a lie detector test a month ago and was asked two questions by the polygraph examiner. He said he was asked two questions: First, if he had any knowledge of the Bowen family receiving money and, second, whether he had any knowledge of an Adidas transaction.
“I answered ‘absolutely not’ on both questions and passed the lie detector test. So I had no knowledge of any of this,” Pitino said
The Hall of Fame coach went on to say that he takes “full responsibility” for anybody he brought into the program, but also stressed that the assistant coaches he hired went through a vetting process.
“I take full responsibility for anybody I hire,” Pitino said. “There’s no question about that. I take ownership of that. People have said to me after the Andre McGee thing, ‘You need to really vet your assistant coaches.’ Well I did vet my assistant coach. … I’ve hired some great ones. Did I make some mistakes in the last couple of hires? One hundred percent, yes, but I believe that they were the right people,” Pitino said.
Louisville placed assistant coaches Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair on paid administrative leave earlier this month, but last week the school announced the dismissal of Fair.
Louisville’s athletic board voted unanimously to fire Pitino on Monday “for cause”, and on Tuesday the former coach announced plans to file a lawsuit against Adidas. Athletic director Tom Jurich was officially fired on Wednesday amid the pay-for-play scandal.