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The Adidas Scandal: Where Things Stand Now

It’s not looking good for anyone involved and that’s before the feds have flipped a single person.

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Davidson v Louisville
PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 15: (R) Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals reacts as well as the Louisville Cardinals mascot in the second half against the Davidson Wildcats in the second round of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Rose Garden Arena on March 15, 2012 in Portland, Oregon.
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Louisville’s situation after the FBI bribery and recruiting scandal broke came to its first head Wednesday as the school began to part ways with coach Rick Pitino and A.D. Tom Jurich. PItino can’t be fired for 10 days due to his contract but he’s done and so is Jurich.

We respect Pitino’s ability as a coach a great deal but the Eddie Haskell act has never worn well. In private, we’re sure he’s nothing like the choir boy he pretends to be and when he’s been in trouble, his immediate reaction is always to blame someone else. He takes responsibility, sure, but it’s never his fault. He’s going to be forever connected to Kentucky, where he saved the program in its darkest hour, and Louisville, where at the end he became not a savior but Vishnu, bringing the darkness and destruction himself.

Also done, apparently, is freshman Brian Bowen, who has been suspended and will never play a day for Louisville and probably nowhere else in college. He’s certainly not ready for the NBA and probably won’t be by next summer so basketball wise he’s kind of screwed. The pocket change (by NBA standards) he allegedly got won’t last him a year. As is so often the case in the world of basketball, the kids are abused by the adults and left with nothing, which, again, underscores the moral imperative of imparting as much education as is possible while these guys are in school.

In Tucson, Sean Miller, also ensnared by the scandal since his assistant was arrested, has been conspicuously silent, almost as if an attorney were advising him to remain so. The longer he stays silent the worse it looks. When his brother Archie took the Indiana job, it was expected that he’d catch up to Sean and possibly surpass him.

But not by September surely.

Back in Louisville speculation has turned to Pitino’s successor and the cleanest, best coach they could possibly get has been mentioned: Davidson’s Bob McKillop.

The man has been near genius at Davidson and with the roster he’d inherit, Louisville would compete.

Seems unlikely unless he wants a crack at the big time right before he retires. Never doubt that man though because he is a great, great talent and has always been above reproach.

Other names have come up like John Thompson III. Seriously? From Pitino’s style to the Princeton Offense? If you want to bore people to tears, why not just hire Herb Sendek? There’s your death penalty.

Tom Crean has also come up but since his former assistant Kenny Johnson worked for Pitino (and may for a few days still) and hasn’t been cleared yet, Crean seems like a weird pick. What if Johnson was doing the same thing on his staff, where he recruited very well? That’s another PR disaster and Louisville is already radioactive.

By the way, assuming he avoids indictment or professional disaster in this case, Johnson is a very interesting fellow for a coach. This is from his bio:

Johnson attended Oxon Hill (Md.) High School, where his playing career was cut short due to an injury in his second year of varsity basketball. As a senior at Oxon Hill in 1994, he was named Science and Technology Student of the Year. He earned his bachelor's degree in cell, molecular biology and genetics in 1999 at the University of Maryland, where he was a Benjamin Banneker Scholarship recipient. He worked as a protein chemist/molecular biologist at Human Genome Sciences in Rockville, Md. after graduation.

He has career options in other words, assuming he’s not hopelessly screwed by this scandal. He’s a great example of the value of an education.

Steve Fisher probably isn’t the ideal guy either - Michigan’s Fab Five issues will always be with him - but he’s not busy and could have a good year or two as a transitional figure. He certainly remade his reputation at San Diego State and proved to be a masterful coach.

We seriously doubt Mike Montgomery would consider coming out retirement, much less moving to Louisville, but why not ask? He’s another guy who would be useful in transition and would come with no questions about his character.

And if you want to look a little further, obviously you’d have to make sure there are no integrity issues (we wouldn’t know but we wouldn’t expect any), might as well look out West to Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle and Utah’s Coach K, Larry Krystkowiak, who is a heck of a coach. He’d be a very popular man with the fan base and the job would be a step up, even with the issues Louisville is about to deal with (with the obvious exception of the death penalty, should it come to that).

If nothing else, crime on campus might drop.

The L.A. media suggests that while USC may not be under investigation, Andy Enfield’s job security might not be that solid right now. His assistant, former Syracuse star Tony Bland, has been charged in the scandal and questions about the head coach naturally follow.

Two of his players are involved - they haven’t been identified yet - but like Louisville’s Bowen should be suspended fairly soon and then we’ll know.

Just as a point, the most highly rated players on USC’s roster (coming out of high school that is) are Charles O’ Bannon, Jr. (#38) and former Duke guard Derryck Thornton (#14). That won’t necessarily correlate though. A transfer is on some level by definition a failure and O’ Bannon is a promising player but not necessarily someone to bet the farm on.

Like everyone except Pitino, who has nothing to lose, Enfield’s silence is deafening.

Down in Auburn, like Enfield and Miller, Bruce Pearl is doing his best to duck the media which again is not an encouraging sign. Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith, a highly excitable and often nervous guy who hides that behind a wonderful sense of humor (trust us on this), says Chuck Person has been like a son to him and he’s devastated.

Out in Oklahoma, new coach Mike Boynton seems to have escaped even much criticism over the situation involving assistant Lamont Evans who is a major part of this scandal. Not even billionaire T. Boone Pickens has expressed much concern so far and he basically funds the whole operation.

What the heck, it’s football season. Who cares about this game out there in September?

But it’s making waves at South Carolina where Evans used to work for Frank Martin.

In recent times, Duke guys Jay Bilas and John Feinstein have been on opposite sides of several scandal issues, notably UNC’s (and by the way, what would a scandal be these days without a UNC connection? See the first link below).

That’s the case again as Bilas argues that “[w]hen people violate company rules, they don’t fire everybody. It’s unreasonable to believe a coach knows everything.”

And Feinstein? Quite the opposite. He says the coaches always know everything.

We think that’s largely correct, although we didn't think that Pitino knew about the hookers in the Louisville dorm which, remember, was named for his brother-in-law, who perished in Manhattan on 9/11. That was probably a rogue operation. We just can’t imagine Pitino would have accepted that stain on a dorm named for a man he truly loved.

But in general? We agree with Feinstein, who quotes Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo thusly: “Coaches are control freaks. We want to know everything that goes on. If we don’t do that, we aren’t doing our jobs.”

Actually, come to think of it Smith is a good argument to support Bilas but perhaps more as an exception to the rule than the rule itself: Smith went out of his way at VCU to not know about problems. People were instructed, for instance, to never, under any circumstance, discuss player academics with Smith (those conversations were had with academic support staff or possibly Smith’s then-assistant coach Mike Ellis. But never Smith.

Finally, what about Miami and Jim Larranaga?

Like the others, Larranaga is not talking, but his attorney, Stuart Grossman, has spoken by e-mail and says that the Miami coach has no involvement in the scandal and doesn’t even know which assistant is being investigated: “We are reviewing the allegations but I assure you they do not apply to our much loved Coach L. I just can’t comment further. It’s so difficult to respond to shrouded allegations.”

Here are the candidates for the asssistant being investigated: Chris Caputo, Jamal Brunt and Adam Fisher. To judge by their bios, Caputo and Brunt have bigger roles in recruiting than does Fisher.

Here’s the letter that Miami president Julio Frenk sent out about the situation which seems to strike the right tone, concluding with this: “We are a strong institution and I can assure you that we will do what is right, even if doing so is hard.”

One other thing to note: he uses the phrase student recruit as opposed to student-athlete.

By the way, during the 1991 Final Four, we introduced the concept of the Duke Curse. We held it up on two pieces of taped-together poster board, arguing that teams that beat Duke in the NCAA tournament eventually came to some bad end. It kept happening but eventually it got boring and we quit maintaining it. We just wanted to point out that it still seems to work and South Carolina is the latest victim/evidence.

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