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Breaking News: Karen Sypher Still Hates Rick Pitino

It’s been some time since we’ve mentioned Rick Pitino’s old friend and flame, Karen Sypher.  You recall that the middle-aged blonde was convicted of extortion last fall for trying to bilk Pitino of millions of dollars and later accused the Louisville coach of raping her after the feds caught on to her crazy scheme.  She’s had a couple of sentencing hearings delayed already as her attorney earnestly (and we’re sure, honestly) tries to put together more evidence for a re-trial motion.  She’s now due for sentencing to a federal penitentiary on February 18 of this year.

All of this extra free time has apparently given Sypher more creative license to concoct additional stories involving Pitino as a horrible, horrible man.  In this weekend interview with Geraldo Rivera of all people, she states that Pitino threatened to have her four kids buried in the concrete of a bridge in New York if she refused to keep quiet about their tryst on the floor of Porcini’s and her subsequent pregnancy (that Pitino paid for her “health insurance”/abortion).  Apologies for the light volume on this clip, but it’s really worth hearing.

Well, we’ll give her credit for leaving no tried-and-true cliche unturned.   When all else is lost, you might as well go with the Italian/mafioso meme.  Perhaps next week, she’ll claim one of Pitino’s African-American players carjacked her and forced her at gunpoint to perform disdainful sex acts; and the week after that, she’ll be on Nancy Grace accusing a Pitino associate who looks like a leprechaun of breaking into her bedroom to “snatch her people up.”  There seems to be no line between fantasy and reality with this woman — any and all things are possible.

Can someone out there please make her go away?  Please?

Sypher Found Guilty Across The Board, Pitino Image Repair Begins

Earlier today, the jury in the Karen Sypher extortion case found her guilty on all six counts with which she was charged by the government.  From KSR:

  • Three counts of extortion,
  • Two counts of lying to the FBI, and
  • One count of retaliating against a witness.

By our tally, that can result in up to 26 years in the hoosegow and $1.5 million in fines.  The sentence will be handed down within the next two months.

A couple of quick thoughts, here. You may recall that Sypher’s defense team did not bother to call any witnesses as part of their case.  This can only mean that her attorneys felt confident enough in the failure of the prosecution to get over that “reasonable doubt” threshold they’re required to achieve.  After an across-the-board guilty verdict, though, you certainly have to wonder about the radar and the handicapping abilities of that defense team.  Not only will she not be taking them on any trips out to Churchill Downs any time soon, but it’s conceivable that she could accuse them of ineffective assistance of counsel, a form of legal malpractice, and appeal this verdict.  This tactic rarely works, however, because even if your defense calls no witnesses at a trial where you’re found guilty, proving your counsel was incompetent is a very hard thing to do.  You’d pretty much have to have an attorney like the lawyer who went nuts and stripped naked during the deposition in the movie Michael Clayton to make that stick.

She can appeal, citing counsel's "ineffectiveness," but it's a huge stretch.

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Sypher Extortion Trial Against Pitino Begins Today In Louisville

As if the drama of conference realignment and the fate of the play-in games wasn’t enough for your summer, the college basketball world now turns a reluctant eye to Louisville, where the Karen Sypher extortion trial begins today.  It’s been about seven years since whatever happened between Sypher and Rick Pitino in that Italian restaurant happened, and the sorting out of this whole mess started earlier this morning in the U.S. District Court in Louisville.  The trial is scheduled to last a couple of weeks.

In addition to the extortion charge, Sypher is accused of retaliating against Pitino after he went public with the news of the single-night affair, and then lying to federal agents about it.  The linked article above from Louisville’s Courier-Journal describes how, even though it might seem like prosecutors have a pretty sweet breakaway dunk in this business, they’re not making the mistake of just assuming a win.  They’ll have to prove everything we’ve been hearing about in the media — the false rape claim, the lies to federal prosecutors, the exchange of money and cars, and so on — to get a victory, here.

July madness begins in Louisville.

That Sypher may have had some experience with this extortion stuff even before her dealings with Pitino doesn’t help her cause.  And the very first page of the Courier-Journal’s article notes how prosecutors will introduce evidence that Sypher had sexual relations with both of the men whom she used to make the actual threats against Pitino, including performing “a sexual act” for one of them — a guy named Lester, and honestly, how can there not be a guy named Lester involved in all of this? — on the very same day that he made the initial threatening call to Pitino.  Also, according to this update from the Courier, in Sypher’s attorney’s opening statement, he alleges that Pitino “suggested something involving concrete and a river” after Sypher said that she didn’t want an abortion.  Feel that?  That’s your skin crawling.

While it will be interesting (and a little gross) to watch the events play out in Louisville over the next two weeks, we’re even more intrigued by the possible effects this could have on the Cardinals when the time comes to actually play basketball again.  Will Pitino’s players respect him as a coach or look at him more as a man who dishonored his wife?  Will the added media attention (because even though the trial might be over in two weeks, this all won’t just end in two weeks) be a distraction from basketball?  Will these legal issues and the increased rumblings in the city of Louisville about the absence of a national title under Pitino have him wondering if it’s time to move on? Or will his players rally behind their coach, buy into his system more than ever, and return Louisville to the later reaches of the NCAA Tournament?  If he makes any statement to the media over the next two weeks, be ready for Pitino to rhapsodize about how these are the greatest days of his life and how he’s never been less stressed than he is right now.  Which means that he’s in hell, and can’t wait to get back to basketball.  Can you blame him?

Looks Like Karen Sypher May Have Tried This Before

Karen Sypher’s credibility just took a(nother) hit.

Earlier today it was revealed that Sypher, the woman who claimed that Rick Pitino raped her and who allegedly attempted to extort $10 million from the Louisville head coach, had also lodged false claims of sexual harassment against another Louisville man back in 2001.  This AP report posted on details how Sypher had consensual sex with a Louisville businessman nine years ago (the man is now dead, by the way), and was subsequently hired by him at his auto glass business.  When the man’s fiancee found out about his relationship with Sypher, he broke it off.  Sypher then claimed to be pregnant, and sued this guy for sexual harassment.  No criminal charges ever materialized.

Last year, you may recall, Sypher claimed that, in 2003, Pitino raped her on two different occasions.  This accusation came after Pitino revealed that Sypher was attempting to extort ten million bucks from him, and he even admitted to a consensual affair with Sypher (remember the Porcini’s incident?) after she came out with her rape claim. Prosecutors say that a few weeks after the consensual sexual affair, Sypher told Pitino she was pregnant and wanted money for health insurance; prosecutors say that pregnancy was eventually aborted, and it’s been reported that Pitino paid for it.  It was six years later that Sypher then attempted to extort the money from Pitino.

Today's revelation doesn't paint Sypher in the best light.

Now that you’re up to date on the events of last year, what does it have to do with Sypher’s upcoming extortion trial which starts on July 26th?  Well, if prosecutors can establish a pattern of this type of behavior from Sypher, it makes it easier for a judge to see her dealings with Pitino as a planned scheme, and makes it appear more likely that she did indeed attempt to extort Pitino — a charge she told federal prosecutors was without basis — which could land her in some seriously hot water.  Multiple extortion attempts, lying to federal prosecutors, false rape charges…not exactly the kinds of things that judges tend to blow off or be too warm and fuzzy about.  Rick Pitino has by no means been just an injured innocent in all of this, but despite her initial accusations regarding Pitino, it’s Sypher who could wind up in the most legal trouble.

Buzz: Karen Sypher Tapes Released

WLKY in Louisville has released the infamous Karen Sypher police tapes where she talks about getting an abortion, threats against her family, and the like.  The Sporting Blog is currently reviewing the tapes and will update whether anything interesting comes out of them, but oddly coincidental, we’ve also received word that Rick Pitino has called a 3pm EDT news conference this afternoon.  Perhaps there’s something else in those tapes that he knows he’ll have to answer to? 

Stay tuned…  this story just won’t die.

A Final Post on Pitino and Sypher. . . (for now)

After finishing what I thought would be RTC’s last Rick Pitino-Karen Sypher post late last night/early this morning, I had a funny feeling that something seemed fishy about the story. I was a little confused about the dates that the Louisville Courier-Journal cited from the police reports. The dates on Sypher’s story didn’t seem to add up. I briefly mentioned it to Dan Levy, who mentioned an outline of my idea on today’s podcast. I was set to put up a sensational post (actually this very draft, but with a substantially different title). After discussing it with our legal team (rtmsf), I decided to sleep on the idea and dig around a little more before doing a definitive Pitino-Sypher post. Well after sleeping on it (and finishing a day of work and sitting through a Pitino press conference), here’s how it all breaks down:

Rick Pitino may not be walking through that door (Credit:

Rick Pitino May Not Be Walking Through That Door (Credit:

Was Syphers Pregnant?

This was my original question.  Without getting too technical, I was surprised at how close the dates were to the earliest accepted times for these tests to occur. Here’s a brief run-down of the dates and what happened according to the C-J article:

  • August 1-2, 2003:  The dinner at Porcini’s where Pitino and Sypher had sex. This is confirmed by both parties even if the two sides disagree on whether it was consensual.
  • Approximately 2 weeks later: Sypher calls Pitino and tells him that she is pregnant and the kid is his because she claims not to have had sex with anybody else in months. Usually women don’t realize they’re pregnant until they have missed their first menstrual period, but women who are exceptionally concerned can have a positive pregnancy test (typically a urine hCG) as soon as a week after intercourse. Without getting into the variable predictive values of positive urine pregnancy tests in relation to menstrual periods, we’ll generally agree that this is a plausible explanation.
  • August 26, 2003: The date of Sypher’s reported ultrasound that confirmed her pregnancy. Note that the date is a little over 3.5 weeks after the first encounter between the two. Without getting too technical  about ultrasounds, there are two types: transvaginal and transabdominal. I’ll let you guess where the probe is inserted on both. The transvaginal is much more sensitive at detecting a fetus early in pregnancy and can be used to detect a pregnancy as early as 4.5-5 weeks into a pregnancy. Before the alarm bells start going off in your head like they did in mine at 1 AM last night, you should remember that a pregnancy is defined by the time since the last menstrual period. I don’t want to turn this into health education class (or discuss menstrual cycles in a women who could be perimenopausal) so let’s just assume that Sypher’s last menstrual period was 2 weeks before the night at Porcini’s. At 5.5 weeks, she now falls into the acceptable window for pregnancy, but just barely to the point where one would wonder about the legitimacy of her claim. However, if she claims to have had a transabdominal ultrasound (we’re assuming women can remember the difference in where the ultrasound probe is placed), that’s a different story as there is no way that any medical professional would rely on that to detect such an early stage of pregnancy.

Being the responsible “journalists” that we are at RTC, we contacted Andrew Wolfson, the writer of the story, and asked him if there had been any verification of the medical procedure. He told us that the abortion had in fact been confirmed in the police report. So it turns out that Sypher was in fact pregnant at the time even if the time frame surrounding her ultrasound dates and her encounter with Pitino would make a neutral observer extremely suspicious of her story.

They can vouch for Karen Sypher.
They can vouch for Karen Sypher.

Health Insurance?

The big story of today was Pitino’s press conference where he spoke vaguely about the incident after Andy Katz reported earlier in the day that he wouldn’t speak about it until required to do so in a legal arena. While I’m sure the state of Kentucky was glued to their televisions and radios, the entire presser wasn’t particularly notable. However, during the conference Pitino said something that caught my attention:

“If you tell the truth, the problem becomes part of your past. If you lie, it becomes part of your future.”

On the surface, this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to say even if it sounds like something you might find in Aesop’s Fables. The reason I was so struck by this statement is because of another statement made earlier in the day by Steve Pence, Pitino’s lawyer. The key assertion that Pence made was that despite reports to the contrary, Pitino hadn’t paid Sypher $3,000 so she could have an abortion – he had, in fact, paid her that sum so that a 43 year-old pregnant woman could buy health insurance. Think about that for a second. . .

Done? Is your head hurting like mine did after hearing that statement? Pitino, the master BSer, expects us to believe that Sypher could get adequate prenatal care/management for the entire pregnancy of a middle-aged woman? I don’t even have to start into medical jargon for you to know that a pregnancy in a 43 year-old is at high-risk for complications with the most well-known being Down’s Syndrome.  Obviously this kind of pregnancy isn’t going to be cheap (and the insurers know that too). How did Pitino expect Sypher to find insurance for that sum? The answer is that it’s pretty clear that he didn’t.  So, why would he lie about this, a legal, if controversial in some places, procedure?  Even Red Staters in the Louisville area would be willing to forgive Pitino’s indiscretions if he continues to get to Elite Eights.  So who or what exactly would Pitino be afraid of?  The answer may lie in a place closer to Pitino’s heart than even basketball. . .

A man that Pitino fears

A Man That Pitino Fears

Pitino’s Catholic faith is well-known and while he doesn’t reach Tim Tebow levels in terms of evangelism it’s pretty clear that Catholicism is a big part of his life as he reportedly “brings along close friend and spiritual adviser, the Rev. Edward Bradley — a priest in Henderson, Ky. — on many team trips”. As most of you are probably aware, the Catholic Church has taken a fairly strong and unambiguous stance against abortion. Perhaps at this point in his life, Pitino is less concerned about keeping his coaching job and jeopardizing a future trip to Springfield than he is about being granted into admission into another rather select club.

Aesop’s Fables

Louisville Should Be Happy Joanne Pitino Isn’t Afraid to Speak Her Mind…

In 2001, when Michigan and then-athletic director Bill Martin announced they had hired then-Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker to try and rebuild the turmoil-riddled program in Ann Arbor, the fan base and the state’s pundits all hailed the move as an excellent one. Of course they probably would have been singing a different tune about the decision if they knew how close Martin had been to landing then-failed Boston Celtics’ coach Rick Pitino. Of course no one knew how close Pitino was to ending up with the Wolverines until the now-Louisville coach shared the story with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski on SiriusXM radio earlier this week.

Rick Pitino In Ann Arbor? You’re Right, We Can’t See It Either

According to Pitino, he had already signed an agreement to become the next coach at Michigan and had even managed to convince his wife the move was a good one. Everything was basically finalized, that is until Martin decided to go play squash and tell his secretary he didn’t want to be disturbed; at that exact moment, another team from Kentucky came calling and Pitino’s wife felt the pull of familiar territory. In fact, let’s just let Pitino tell the story himself.

I was living right on Thom Avenue in Boston, and she came up and threw her book at me, and said, ‘You know, you’re afraid to go to Kentucky.’ It’s once every two years, what’s the big deal? They’re going to boo you, they’re going to yell things, for one game. What is the big deal? You don’t know anybody at Michigan, you’ve never been there, and now you’re going to pass on all your friends and your children, you’re older son, who’s settled down there, why would you do that?’

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Morning Five: 07.06.12 Edition

  1. It’s been an exceptionally quiet news week in college basketball, but some legal-related information has come out this week that doesn’t involve health care hype and hysteria. In response to the Bernie Fine scandal at Syracuse that broke last November, a Board of Trustees report released on Thursday found that Syracuse officials acted promptly when allegations against Fine were first reported to them in 2005, but they did not go far enough in reporting the information to law enforcement officials. This inaction, which included the possibility that if the allegations “turned out to be true, then the failure to have approached law enforcement at best exposed the university to harsh criticism, and at worst allowed a child molester to remain in place in the community without being called to account.” There’s a lot more detail in the story linked above, but the one thing we can all agree on is that we’re not alone in hoping the truth comes out on this story soon.
  2. Moving to a story that we hope is finally over for good, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati ruled on Thursday that attorneys for convicted Rick Pitino extortionist Karen Sypheradvanced no arguments of merit on appeal” in her latest attempt to have her prison sentence overturned. Her arguments centered on whether she received a fair trial given the significant amount of publicity that the case engendered, but according to the three-judge panel, she failed to provide evidence that she had in fact received an unfair trial. Sypher will no doubt continue appealing the various federal courts on the basis of any number of frivolous constitutional claims, but her sentence goes through 2017 so she has plenty of time to figure out next steps. Who knows — maybe America’s least favorite justice, John Roberts, will have a chance to rule on Ms. Sypher somewhere down the line.
  3. It’s not a ruling from the legal world, but the NCAA fashions itself as judge, jury, and executioner anyway, so we’ll continue this theme. Just prior to the start of the July recruiting evaluation period next week, the NCAA barred four AAU ‘travel teams’ from involvement in its sanctioned events because of a “prohibited association” between three administrators and a coach with an agent named Andy Miller. Miller apparently sent an e-mail to the four men pushing and cajoling them to live up to their obligations in getting players to the NBA, and the NCAA somehow caught wind of it. The players on these four teams — the New England Playaz, Worldwide Renegades, Florida Rams, and SEBL Elite — are not prohibited from jumping to other teams in order to play in the events, but they’ll have to hustle to find openings over the weekend. Our stance on summer AAU basketball is well-established, but this is just another example of why it needs a major NCAA-led overhaul.
  4. One of the unique quirks of BYU basketball is that most of us sometimes forget that they have good players stashed away on missions overseas while the rest of college basketball is constantly trying to reload its talent base — it’s almost like a basketball safety valve of sorts. BYU rising sophomore Tyler Haws is one such example, having spent the last two years in the Philippines after a promising freshman season where he averaged 11/4 and shot 50% from the field. One of the peculiarities of Haws returning to NCAA basketball is that he is an exceptional free throw shooter, hitting 91.5% of his attempts in 2009-10. He is also the current owner of a streak of 48 makes in a row, putting him a little more than halfway to the NCAA Division I record held by Butler’s Darnell Archey from 2000-03. With a lot of downtime on his mission in basketball-crazy Philippines, maybe Haws used some of it to perfect his stroke to make a run at the record.
  5. From a player returning to college hoops after a two-year layoff to a head coach doing so after 24 years, Larry Brown is getting his legs under him at SMU this summer. In a recent interview with the Topeka Capital-Journal, the only coach to have ever won both a national title (Kansas) and an NBA title (Detroit Pistons) explained that: a) he wouldn’t have been offered the SMU job had Maryland’s Mark Turgeon not initially floated his name out there; b) top assistant Tim Jankovich approached Brown about leaving potentially his best team at Illinois State; and c) he doesn’t care much for the games themselves, rather preferring the teaching aspect of practices. This experiment at SMU is certainly going to make for an interesting storyline the next couple of seasons — we’d hate to suggest that a head coach with an all-time record of 177-61 (.744) in college might struggle, but his previous stops at UCLA and Kansas are much different animals than what they have down in the north side of Dallas.

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition


  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.


  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.

Deconstructing the Louisville-Kentucky Rivalry to the Rest of America

So we hear that there’s an interesting rivalry game going down in New Orleans on Saturday. It’s a good thing that nobody has decided to write about it or talk about it yet; that means this piece will be first on the scene.

Game of the Century in the Commonwealth (h/t Card Chronicle)

All kidding aside, Dream Game II will without question be the most-watched event in the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s history. While the Kentucky Derby may get more worldwide attention, the truth is that most Kentuckians don’t know any more about the Sport of Kings than they do about navigating the New York City subway system — the first Saturday in May is mostly viewed as a neat aside for the state to put on its happy face and throw a grandiose party. But as far as college basketball, this is a sophisticated crowd whose knowledge and passion cuts through all the cultural, class and racial fissures that exist in any modern society. And this rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky exhibits that perhaps better than any other such local tussle in the sport — let’s look at the reasons why.

  • The Good Folks of Kentucky Are Bats#!t Crazy About College Basketball. We very much mean this in a complimentary way. Take a normal August, for example.  While the rest of the nation is caught up in pennant races, backyard barbecues, and the imminent start of college football and the NFL, Wildcat and Cardinal fans are calling into local talk shows and signing on to message boards to discuss the latest word from summer pick-up games and recruiting rumors. When Rick Pitino went through his 15 seconds of fame several summers ago, the coverage of Karen Sypher and the entire debacle saturated both Lexington and Louisville news media for weeks. It’s no secret that college hoops is a 365-day per year commitment in the Commonwealth, and such near-obsession with the sport magnifies the importance of the standing of the two major programs on a regular basis.
  • UK Fans Are Not Over Pitino’s Return to the State. And they never will be. What you have to realize is that from 1989-97, Rick Pitino as the young, brash and highly successful coach of the Wildcats was as big as big gets in the Bluegrass. Not only did he resurrect the Kentucky program from the very public shame of a devastating probation, but he captured hearts and minds from Paducah to Pikeville with his intoxicating and fun style of basketball featuring three-point shooting, full-court pressure defense and a deep, active bench. When he left for the Boston Celtics in 1997 after three Final Four appearances and a national title in 1996, most UK fans were sad but thankful for how he had rebuilt their proud program. That all changed four years later after Denny Crum’s retirement when he returned to take over the head job at Louisville. Suddenly those same fans who had adored the charismatic coach in Lexington looked at his return as nothing other than a traitorous Judas Iscariot. The thinking went: “Out of all the good D-I coaching jobs in America, he had to choose Louisville?” Can you blame them?