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Former Louisville Assistant Dino Gaudio Pleaded Guilty Friday: What Now?

Louisville could have even more problems on the horizon.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal
Former assistant coach Dino Gaudio walks towards the Gene Snyder Federal Courthouse on Broadway in Louisville Friday morning, Gaudio would enter a guilty plea to his UofL extortion case. His sentencing is Aug. 27 June 4, 2021 
Matt Stone/Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

There’s been a lot of other stuff going on lately obviously so we haven’t had a chance to say much about the Dino Gaudio case.

In case you hadn’t seen it in light of all the Coach K/Jon Scheyer news, former Louisville assistant and Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio cut a plea deal in federal court in his extortion case.

He’ll get away with no jail time, which is a huge break, and, from what we can see from a paywalled article at the Louisville Courier-Journal, which isn’t much, will also “spill” to the NCAA about Louisville’s program.

This is the headline: “Gaudio cuts plea deal and will dish to NCAA about Louisville hoops.“

Honestly, it’s gotten to the point where it’s getting hard to keep up with what’s gone on at Louisville but as best we can do, here are some scandal crib notes from over the last decade or so. Well, a dozen years to be precise. Call it Louisville’s Dirty Dozen:

  • 2009: Karen Sypher and extortion case #1. Rick Pitino had a late-night encounter at a restaurant with a woman named Karen Sypher who later said he had impregnated her. The whole thing lasted 15 seconds. You can call that a Dirty 15.
  • 2015: Escort Katrina Powell was paid to show recruits a good time. Louisville’s 2013 national championship was vacated due to this one. Pitino felt Louisville got - oh, never mind.
  • 2017: Adidas scandal. We probably don’t need to remind you of the details but this one forced Louisville’s hand and Pitino was forced out, and he was replaced with Xavier’s Chris Mack.

When Mack let Gaudio go, he threatened to spill the beans to the NCAA unless he got a sweet severance, whereupon Mack called the authorities and Bob’s your uncle, here we are.

So the question now is: what does Gaudio actually know? Gaudio is 64 now and radioactive. If he had a chance to stay in coaching before all of this, he surely doesn’t now. As most of you know, even clean coaches rarely rat out cheaters, and assistants who do so will find it very hard to find a new gig.

That alone would have made him untouchable, but no one is ever going to hire a convicted felon to coach. He won’t even get a nibble from his old employer, ESPN.

So there’s no reason for him to hold back and if he decides to destroy Mack, and the Louisville program, he might be able to do it.

Thing is, those guys go back a long ways. They were Skip Prosser assistants at Xavier and Wake Forest and Mack thought enough of him to hire him at Louisville for the last three seasons. They’ll never be friends again but we could see him reconsidering a scorched earth approach.

If it turns out that Mack has cheated - and given the reason he was hired, his leash is going to be shorter than normal - a number of things could happen. First, Louisville will be back in trouble again. Second, the school could get the death penalty although the NCAA has only applied it once, to SMU football in 1987, and appears reluctant to do so again.

And third, if the charges are serious and proven, Mack will almost certainly have to go. Given everything that has happened, Louisville cannot be seen as tolerating the slightest bit of rule breaking.

Which means they’re going to have to do what SMU did in 1987 and Kentucky following the scandal that brought Eddie Sutton down at Kentucky in and NC State after Jim Valvano was forced out in 1990.

They’ll have to clean house and find someone who is above reproach, with luck someone who can win but who above all will not humiliate the university yet again.

Whenever a school goes shopping for a coach like that, a Duke candidate or two are usually on the list. We could see them going after, say, Johnny Dawkins, whose reputation is flawless, or Harvard’s Tommy Amaker. You’d get a twofer there with Duke and the Ivy League aura.

ideally though, they’d want someone with a Louisville connection but the message that a Duke hire would bring. They’d also want someone who is charismatic and likable.

There is only one guy in the world that we’re aware of who checks all those boxes and the only negative is that he has never been a head coach and just barely an assistant.

We’re referring of course to Duke’s Nolan Smith, son of Louisville great Derek. He’s still very inexperienced but everyone who pays attention sees his extraordinary potential. He has deep emotional ties to that program as well as Duke’s and if they approached him, we’re pretty sure he would listen.

It’s probably unlikely, but if Mack is fired with cause, Louisville is going to be in a really tough situation and they’ll need to think creatively to get out of it.