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Rick Pitino rips media for coverage of scandal, says Louisville has been 'wronged'

The Louisville head coach tore into media coverage of his program and blamed the NCAA and the press for their handling of an ongoing scandal.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino ripped into the news media on Friday for what he views as slanted, irresponsible reporting on his program's ongoing scandal over allegations that an assistant coach financed sex with prostitutes for Louisville recruits.

At a press conference, Pitino fielded a question about whether he gave his middle finger to Kentucky fans after the Cardinals' loss in Lexington last weekend. Pitino, who's already denied that point, then teed off on an entirely different subject: the media's coverage of the scandal.

Pitino is angry that media outlets have given a wide platform to Louisville escort Katina Powell, who co-authored the book at the center of this entire episode. Via WDRB:

"If there are crimes – now I didn't read the book, you guys read the book, so I only know what people tell me – but if there are crimes being committed, why is the NCAA or ESPN giving a forum to that person? If there are crimes. Now, I don't know if there are crimes being committed."

Pitino thinks that, if something criminal or against NCAA rules was going on, the people around him deliberately kept him in the dark because "all hell would break loose" if the head coach found out about it. He also scolded the NCAA for misrepresenting his intentions and blamed the NCAA for his not attending the ACC's media day with two of his players after the scandal broke.

"The NCAA is upset at me because if I say, I can't find one person, not one, that knew anything about it, the NCAA says you're intimidating the witnesses. That wasn't my intent to say that. So that's why I didn't go to media day. They're telling me I'm intimidating. Well, soon as this happened, I went ballistic on everybody. 'Wait a second. You didn't know one, single thing?' The security person, 'You never saw a thing in four years and you worked for four years around the clock?' 'No.' Well, the answer's obvious, isn't it, Rick, isn't the answer obvious? The reason that nobody saw anything, they knew that all hell would break loose if I found out that one single thing was going on."

He praised WDRB sports journalist Eric Crawford as "the only one who has gotten to the bottom of this" in a context of broad media misinformation. He said he wouldn't be willing to risk his career if he knew there was truth to the reporting that blew open the scandal.

... The one thing I can tell you is, if there are lies in this book as Eric has pointed out, then I want to point it out. And I don't know why everybody gave this person [Powell] a forum. I just don't understand it. Why they gave them a forum. Because if someone's lying or not telling the truth and did not keep a journal, I don't know ...

Eric's point is let's follow the money. ... Let's follow the money. Let's understand this: Back in the old days when a coach was making $17,000, $19,000, he may have turned his eyes a little bit to certain things that were going on. When someone's making the incomes that we're making today as well as the assistant coaches, you are not risking one single thing. Not one, single thing you're not risking. With that amount of income that's going on.

Now some people may still be on the fence and take risks. But you're not going to find people like that, taking those risks anymore. Just follow the money where people make today. You think they're going to risk bringing people in to strip? Are you crazy? Doesn't make any sense to me. None of it does. So that's my peace. I've said it once and for all.

Pitino thinks Louisville has been "wronged" and tied inappropriately to one person's actions. An anonymous former player of Pitino's confirmed to ESPN's C.L. Brown that strippers had visited the school's Billy Minardi Hall, where players and recruits reportedly partied.

"I believe in the way we do things, and I believe we have been wronged. We have been wronged. Now, did one person do some scurrilous things? I believe so. From what I know now, I believe so. The only thing I don't know, I don't know why he did it. I just, for the life of me, can't figure out. He knew better, he was taught better, by his parents and by me."

Pitino has not yet been interviewed by the NCAA about the allegations, he said, and believes nothing will be resolved before this summer.