Interim president and athletic director Postel and Tyra comment in The NCAA’s ruling to strip UofL of its 2013 national championship.
Astrid Hacker/Louisville Courier Journal
Rick Pitino told a Louisville radio show Thursday he was motivated by a former NFL player’s battle to overcome cocaine trafficking charges that sullied his name and that the University of Louisville should fight the NCAA’s decision to take away the school’s 2013 men’s basketball championship.
The former Louisville coach told WKRD-790’s Ramsey & Rutherford he was inspired by Eugene “Mercury” Morris, a two-time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins running back who in 1982 was convicted of a felony drug trafficking charge that was later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.
“He said, ‘But, Coach, I’ve been fighting ever since, fighting to clear my name, fighting to get in the ring of honor at Miami Dolphins Stadium. I’ve been fighting all my life,'” Pitino said. “‘He said, ‘Coach, you’ve got to fight, fight for what you believe in, you’ve got to fight for what’s right.'”
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“… I left very motivated, and I said this is a guy that’s still 71 years old, still fighting because of the hurt … and it motivated me to fight for what’s right.”
That Louisville isn’t feeling that same fighting spirit after the NCAA’s ruling in the school’s escort scandal is unfair, Pitino said.
“You have to do everything you can,” Pitino said. “You have to fight the battle for these players, for this city, this university.”
Pitino said the university should have found a way to conduct an impartial internal investigation before firing him and athletic director Tom Jurich after the FBI released details from its investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting. Doing otherwise, he said, signals an admission of guilt.
After the investigation, “if Rick Pitino is guilty of being with those guys (charged in the FBI case), fire his ass forever and don’t pay him a nickel,” said Pitino, who has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Louisville that could be worth more than $35 million. “And if Tom Jurich, if he knew a single thing about it, then fire him. But don’t do that, you just admitted to public media, to the NCAA, to the appeals committee, yeah, we’re trying to clean it up because the AD and the coach, they’re no good.
“How can you do that? It lacks all common sense.”
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Pitino also said his phone conversations with Adidas executive James Gatto were not recorded on any FBI wiretaps. Pitino had confirmed to Courier Journal he spoke with Gatto but said their conversations revolved around Adidas’ deal with Boston Celtics guard and former Louisville player Terry Rozier, not an alleged scheme to steer recruits to Louisville.
“I’m not on any wiretaps, I’m not guilty of a single thing,” Pitino said. “That’s not the way I’ve operated for 40 years.”
Pitino added: “The only saving grace for the University of Louisville … is the fact that I’m 100 percent innocent, and that will play out.”
Asked if he’d come back to Louisville for a reunion in 10 or 15 years, Pitino joked that he’d be dead by then.
“The stress they’ve caused me, I’ll be long gone, so you better have a reunion pretty soon,” Pitino said.