Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Pitino Fiasco

Britt Robson writes in City Pages:

And it was about to go dreadfully wrong. The first indication came at home in December, when the Gophers lost games against South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Milwaukee. They would embark on a 14-game losing streak that included 25-point losses to Big 10 mediocrities Northwestern and Nebraska.

Then things got ugly.

In late February, Pitino suspended three players, including leading scorer Nate Mason, for their involvement in a sex tape posted by freshman Kevin Dorsey on his Twitter account. All three players were guards, a position already undermanned. Ten days earlier, Pitino kicked guard and senior captain Carlos Morris off the squad for unspecified “conduct detrimental to the team.” A walk-on from Hopkins, Stephon Sharp, logged heavy minutes in the backcourt the rest of the season.

If Pitino was thinking this barrage of bad news would end with the cessation of the season, he was mistaken.

On May 8, junior forward Reggie Lynch, an Edina native, was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct and suspended from the team. (No charges were ever filed and Lynch was reinstated in September.)

Three days later, the U released an audit of the Athletic Department. The big news was that Pitino had blown out his annual $50,000 travel budget three years running. He’d spent $113,000 in 2014, then $156,000 in 2015. 

Layered atop all this was a casual arrogance. Yes, there were private jets, apparently an occasional necessity in the high-powered world of major college recruiting. But Pitino would rent cars and drive to the airport when the U had buses available for that purpose. His rental car bills were repeatedly socked because he didn’t bring the cars back with full tanks of gas.

The U even spent $2,298 just to have Pitino’s dog driven up from Florida, paid for as a moving expense. 

A few days after the audit was released, Kaler introduced Mark Coyle as the new athletic director. During his remarks, the president went out of his way to say he was “profoundly disappointed” in the men’s basketball program.

What Kaler failed to mention was that he had continued to enable Pitino after Teague left the building. 

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