Rick Pitino was not one of the three men sentenced to prison Wednesday for their roles in the college basketball recruiting scandal. He wasn’t even on trial and has not been charged with any crimes related to the case.
But U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan mentioned Pitino during the sentencing, and that did not sit well with the Hall of Fame coach who was fired by Louisville in 2017 as the school’s basketball program was being investigated as part of the federal corruption probe.
“The Southern District of New York used me for publicity, the University of Louisville buried a Hall of Fame career,” Pitino said in a text message to the Louisville Courier-Journal from Turkey, where his Greek EuroLeague team Panathinaikos plays Thursday. “Let me rest in peace. Please, you have killed enough of my life.
“And by the way, if you care to ask, there are 50-plus players that will attest to my honesty, not some gullible judge. And Judge Kaplan is as guilty as the people he just sentenced for bringing up an innocent person with his remarks.”
Former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager Christian Dawkins and amateur league director Merl Code were each sentenced to six to nine months in prison Wednesday after being convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October for funneling illegal payments to families of recruits to Louisville and other schools.
Petino has insisted was not involved in and had no knowledge of any such behavior within his program.
During the sentencing Kaplan brought up a recorded conversation in which Code and Dawkins talked about giving Louisville coaches “plausible deniability.”
“I’ll never forget that,” Kaplan said Wednesday. “They were making sure Rick Pitino’s tracks were being covered.”
Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence, responded to the remark in an email to the Courier-Journal.
“Pitino has no tracks that need covering,” Pence wrote. “There are other recordings where they say no one, including Pitino, knows anything about these payments. The fact is, the defendants drop Pitino’s name when they think it will get them more money from a purported investor in this scheme. They dared not actually call Pitino at any time (which they could have done) because he would have immediately exposed them. They know this.”
Pitino told the Courier-Journal he plans on filing a complaint with the judicial system over Kaplan’s “out of line” remark.