I have read and enjoyed your articles for a long time and I have always enjoyed your frank and honest point of view. You and Rick Bozich are fine journalists in the tradition of Earl Ruby, Dave Kindred, Billy Reed, Pat Forde, and so many other fine people I have followed in the Courier-Journal since I was a ten year old in Bourbon County. That was over fifty years ago. Your assessment of Coach Pitino is the same conclusion I too have reached. My dear mother loved UK (five of her six kids have at least one degree from that institution) and particularly Rick Pitino. In the years before her death, my mother worked as an ombudsman for the elderly at Bourbon Heights assisted living facility. Each year Rick would bring his team to Paris to visit all of the elderly in Bourbon Heights and visit with UK’s first All American Basil Hayden. Whether it was the janitor or an elderly lady, Rick would pose for a photo and even autograph those my mother would send him. Mom’s take: “He is does little things quite well and you can see he genuinely loves people.” My mother noted that Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall or Tubby Smith never did the little things like that. She was the best judge of character I ever saw and in her last years, she rooted for UofL because she loved Rick Pitino. There are a lot of people upset by this entire event and as you and Rick have rightly pointed out, it is indeed sad and sordid. Nevertheless, I truly believe in forgiveness and in the final analysis I come to the same conclusion as you. Thank you for a great article.
Jack has a question for me:
I have one question, or comment.
You state that you wouldn’t want your child to attend a Sunday school class lead by Mr. Pitino, however you would have your child play basketball for him.
As a Christian, and if you attend Sunday school I am assuming you are, you would expect the same type of character at all times. Not just on Sunday.
Well, that’s nice in theory, but we live in a world where it cannot always be expected. I expect to tell my kids that they can’t see every adult they meet as a role model. They’re going to have teachers, professors and coaches that they should learn from and obey, but not emulate. That’s how the world is.
Forgive this digression, but I want to tell a quick story. I was covering the University of Evansville basketball team and ran into coach Jim Crews in a hotel lobby. I was about to become a father for the first time, and Crews, who I consider as stand-up a guy as there is, was talking to me about fatherhood. He told me about his teenage son going to a party two nights earlier, where the parents had allowed underage kids to drink. And he said something which I’ve never forgotten: “The world has come to a point where you not only have to teach your kids to have more sense than the other kids, but they need to have more sense than the other kids’ parents.” Amen.
Now, back to the emails. Mike takes us back to the movies:
Well done Eric, another well crafted, intelligent column.
19 out of 20 times Rick gets away w/ it but he had to find a tamer version of Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction).
That movie probably should be required viewing for grooms as part of pre-marital counseling.
Jo brings some perspective:
Thank you for your thoughtful article about Rick. I hope it will sway some of the naysayers.
I am 70 years old, and there are incidents in my life that I sure wouldnt want open to public scrutiny.
I’ve been a Rick fan since he came to Kentucky with the Cats. I still am. Disappointed? Yes. Especially because of the bizarre aftermath.
Nonetheless, Rick is still a great coach and wonderful mentor for young men.
Ken advises me not to jump into a college commitment for my son too early:
Just thought I’d run a thought past you that’s been on my mind. Your paper just gave Patino strong support on it’s editorial page, the same page where they villified some prominent republicans who got caught in illicit affairs. Could you help me understand the difference between these incidents. Quite frankly, if it had been coach Kragthorpe I think the attitude of the paper and fans would be somewhat different.
Unfortunately, there are questions that will still linger until witnesses take the stand under oath in the trial of Ms. Sypher. You might want to wait to decide where you want to see your son play. My thought. I wouldn’t hesitate to see a son play for Rich Brooks or Steve Kragthorpe.
This from John in Seattle:
Eric, I came across your piece regarding Pitino and your approval of him as your child’s coach. It has become disheartening that flagrant immoral behavior is dismissed in favor of coaching ability. Eric, I am a father of 3 now adult children all of whom were active in athletics. Eric…… say this slowly……”basketball….. is only…… a game”. The skills that this coach may impart on his players pale in comparison to instilling the ideals and morals all of us parents hope our children will possess long after we are gone. I realize that any personal relationship
may mask the reality of this very ugly story.
Good luck in your parenting,
James says that Pitino is getting a benefit of the doubt that other coaches do not:
I do not send comments very often, but WHAT IF the persons name in this story was not Rick Pitino? WHAT IF this story was about Steve Kragthorpe how many of the “it’s a private matter leave him alone” types would be calling for coach k’s head. thank you for your time
Dennis in Arizona eloquently states what he expects of his child’s coach:
My son will play sports for a man of integrity.
My son will play for a man who tells the truth.
My son will play sports for a man of honor.
My son will play sports for a man that he and I can respect.
My son will play sports for a man that he and I trust.
My son will play sports for a man with humility.
My son will play sports for a man who respects the value of human life.
My son will play sports for a man who keeps his promises.
My son will play sports for a man who respects and honors his wife and children.
I will evaluate prospective coaches for my son by the way they conduct themselves.
I hold my son’s coach to the same sense of accountability expected from other members of the community, without regard to the number of games or championships he wins.
I will hold my son’s coach accountable to the same standards I hold myself accountable to.
Betty doesn’t like the fickle nature of public opinion:
The public is sick, stone throwers and pick up a little negative and run with it….They have lo
ved Rick Pitino for the past 6 years.
Had they never know about this, that love would have remained. I think it hurts some more than others because this type thing has hit home for them…..Reminders are deadly….
He is still the person I love and respect. Had Crazy Karen not tried to get a free ride, none of us would have known what happened 6 years ago. The past is the past ….It is clear to me that this is a very disturbed woman…I agree Mr. Pitino had to be drunk to get involved with her even one time.
This whole thing isn’t about Mr. Pitino having sex with her, it’s about her trying to get paid for something more than likely wasn’t that good. BLACKMAIL is wrong and she should be punished…
Show me where everyone that is giving their negative 2 cents are perfect and I will show you that Jesus Christ has re-entered the earth.
Yes, I would send my child to play under Mr. Pitino in a heartbeat. He hasn’t done any more than most husbands or men but he was smart not to pay Ms. Sypher to keep quite……That would have been wrong….SMART MAN…
This anonymous emailer links Pitino with a type of crime of which he has never been accused:
Mr. Crawford once again I’m not surprised to see fluff from this paper if you’d truly let your son play for coach pitino after this then would you let him study alone with a priest accused of molestation. Its not what a man does when everyone is watching that measures character, its decisions made outside of public eye. I’m also amazed that UL hasn’t taken a stand and disciplined the coach. I wonder what if this were coach Kragthorpe would he be given this special trratment ? NO, we all know he wouldn’t. Its sad that we don’t hold coaches and players to higher standards but that’s also why they think their special and deserve special treatment.
Shame on you as a Parent, this shows the mentality of U.L. winning is above everything… I would think a parent would be responsible for his son for teaching morals.
Buzz doesn’t like sex scandals on the Sports pages, but he has a problem with finding sex elsewhere in the section, too:
Eric — you surmised… “I think it’s a shame that so many parents are having to screen the sports page before handing it to their kids.”
I agree with you wholeheartedly! I’m in my 60s and my 5 kids have long since grown up and gone, so I don’t have to worry about that now.
However, I would like to point out that I have felt the same way about the C-J sports page for a long time — ever since your ad department began carrying the Deja Vu, Foxy Lady, et al color ads EVERY SINGLE DAY. During the dog days of summer, the ads are rather small but become very conspicuous during Derby Week, etc.
Thanks for providing the opportunity for me to voice this concern.
Kevin brings another former athlete’s perspective:
I am a Boston kid who played two years at BC ( 74-76) under Frank Power and Bob Z. and know enough about coaches to make my own judgments as a parent about a coach and their character. You can be sure that this is the one that he got caught and not the many others where the unknown women in question were more discerning. Ask any college coach today if they have their choice in the away game of the week with any number of willing sycophants and off the record they will tell you that their numbers stack up against Tom Jones or any other rock star. Pitino is a phony, always was and should be lumped in with George O’Leary among others for lying about himself. Yes forgiveness and second chances are great if there is true remorse but in this case, I don’t see it and the good fathers of UL should demand his resignation.
Pitino is an ego maniac who ruined the Boston Celtics for years ( giving up Ron Mercer and C. Billups among others and signing an anemic Travis Knight to a $50mm contract ???) and now is Mr. Contrite after being caught. If I were a student or parent/ administrator for that matter at Louisville I would like to think that my degree and the reputation of the school was of more importance than some guy who could recruit marginally intelligent young men to play bball yet is a philandered and hypocrite and seek his removal immediately. His preaching to the choir about fidelity etc. now has the ring of Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Baker. It’s only a matter of time before he’s gone…
Mary has some good questions:
Dear Mr. Crawford,I appreciate your overall thoughtful and balanced consideration of the Pitino community embarassment.However, as the mother of a highschool coach, a social worker and former pastor, I have some questions and comments.Do you go to Sunday School? Have you ever been a Sunday School teacher? That’s one hour per week in any denomination. Besides the question itself is specious. College basketball prospects are legal adults who get to make up their own minds.
Any coach of any sport at any level spends 15 times as much time with impressive kids as any Sunday School teacher. So, in this sports-crazed culture, a coach’s influence far exceeds any Sunday School teacher’s. And it’s a false logical split to say that Mr. Pitino’s moral influence as a Sunday school teacher is different than what it would be as the very public head coach of a nationally recognized basketball team.
There’s no comparison at all.That’s not even counting the fact that this community and your paper have unofficially elected him the Lord High Coach Pitino. So the influence of his behavior is widespread beyond any of our imaginations. His drunken behavior has just taught every young man in this community that it’s OK to have sex in a public place with a woman not your wife as long as you make a public apology six years’ later. There is no morality in that model. And the example will be repeated over and over by all ages of men because of Mr. Pitino’s rarefied public image.Tom Jurich and President Ramsey and the CJ Editorial Board are simply accomplices in this process. When someone with his public power commits this kind of moral violation, pays off the woman and hides his behavior for six years, he has lost any moral authority he ever had if there are no consequences for his behavior.
At the very least, he should be suspended for one basketball season by U of L. That kind of consequence would teach men of all ages that there are consequences to getting drunk and having sex with the next most willing female. Of course, Sypher is a gold-digger. But the simple fact is that anyone who wants to be a powerful public figure and influential coach has the additional responsibility of living the kind of life that doesn’t perpetuate the daily violations of family and public trust. It comes with the territory and the perks of the public lauditory life and the vast sums of money he receives as coach, public speaker and writer.And what’s going to happen to those players at out of town games, do you think? They will be jeered, made fun of, hurt and humiliated through no fault of their own. Their coach’s lousy behavior will punish young, innocent players; they will be the ones who have to pay the price he should pay.Just wait. College basketba
ll is often cruel, just as cruel as Little League verbal abuse by coaches and parents. What a lousy thing for these young men to have to pay the price for their coach. And what a lousy thing for the leaders of the Louisville community to allow to happen.
Phillip says this:
Eric, I love your totally predictable columns. You are totally Red and Black and I have absolutely no problem with that. But that means that your opinions are no more valuable or credible or knowledgeable than any other fan or blogger or message board poster.As a matter of fact, I can read better, more informed articles all over the internet. Keep up the good work as you and the paper each day strive to become less and less relevant. Your Dad was one of the best, I will say that for sure!
And finally, at least in this current round, we hear from Joseph:
I agree with your comments. My son loves coach Pitino but he is not his role model. I will not be sending my son to college for a morality lesson, he will get those lessons at home.
That’s it for this section of letters. I should say that there were only two emails I received that I did not publish here. Both quoted people who are deceased (one Ralph Beard, the other Jim Valvano). I didn’t think it right to let those folks be quoted when they aren’t here to confirm or deny the statements.
Stay tuned to the blog. I’m thinking about posting some audio files of voice mails. But I need to figure out how to beep out obscenities.