Morning Five: 07.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2010

  1. The extortion trial of Karen Sypher began Monday in Louisville, and the blockbuster allegation of the day came from the defense.  Sypher says that Rick Pitino threatened to have her “put in concrete in a river” if she didn’t keep quiet about their affair in 2003.  It’s going to be educational to see how the defense tries to spin this so that Pitino is viewed as the guilty party considering the amount of evidence that the feds already have in this case.
  2. The second installment of the Flourishing Five came out yesterday, and the Wisconsin Badgers are the #4 pick.  As a reminder, CBS Sports is picking the five collegiate programs with excellent basketball and football programs.  #5 Pittsburgh was named last week.  The Badgers are a solid choice.  We’re going to predict that the next three (in order) are: Florida, Ohio State and Texas.
  3. This is an interesting article from Dennis Dodd about how the ACC hasn’t shut the door on future expansion, having mocked up 14- and 16-team scenarios.  The ACC has to know that as a lesser football conference, it behooves them to be more proactive in this arena rather than waiting to get raided by the Big Ten and/or SEC at some future date.
  4. The thing is, when Tom Izzo says that he believes Purdue is the Big Ten favorite next season, he realizes that his team (not the Boilermakers) will probably be standing later into March and April.  Would you bet against this guy in the postseason given what he’s been able to accomplish the last two with much the same cast of characters?
  5. The Ivy League is still the Ivy League, regardless of the success of Cornell making the Sweet Sixteen and Harvard’s Jeremy Lin getting signed by the Golden State Warriors.  But there are some league insiders who believe the added attention that the conference has received will only help recruiting the type of players who would have otherwise gone to BCS schools.
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Sypher Extortion Trial Against Pitino Begins Today In Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on July 26th, 2010

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?

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Looks Like Karen Sypher May Have Tried This Before

Posted by jstevrtc on July 7th, 2010

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.

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Kentucky Admits Minor Violation to NCAA; Batley Out

Posted by jstevrtc on September 11th, 2009

Readers of this site will probably assume that we’ve turned to coverage exclusively about the University of Kentucky basketball program, what with all the news that’s come out of the Bluegrass State this summer/off-season — the firing of Billy Gillispie, the hiring of John Calipari, the recruitment and signing of John Wall and the accumulation of other big-time prepsters, the Rick Pitino/Karen Sypher fiasco, the eventual further misadventures of Gillispie, and so on.  And now, there’s this:

From the Sporting News

In early July, [Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager] Bilal Batley visited the UK practice gym to speak with a player regarding an academic matter…While there, [Batley] was seen gathering rebounds for one of the players.  The university determined it should be turned into the NCAA as a secondary violation.

Batley held the same post at Calipari’s Memphis program last year before accompanying him to Kentucky.  Before that he was a graduate manager at Indiana for a season.  The Kentucky job didn’t last long, though.  A few days ago, it was announced that Batley was no longer on the UK staff, evidently choosing to leave to go back to Houston because of an illness in his family.


Though no connection has so far been discovered or reported, a person cannot be faulted for asking the question regarding the possibility of a connection between Batley’s departure and what really does look like a minor violation.  It would be normal to ask that question if such an occurrence happened at ANY program.  When John Calipari is your head coach, though, it’s going to draw even more of a critical eye.  We know, nothing’s ever been actually pinned on him, but when you’re the only coach ever to have Final Fours vacated at the two schools you coached and when you associate with people named World Wide Wes, you can’t be surprised when you’re looked at a tad more closely. 

Did Calipari hear about the possibility of some kind of (even miniscule) violation perpetrated by this man, and order him out in the spirit of running a totally clean and pristine program at UK?  Or, if a bigger investigation is forthcoming, did the coaches convene and decide to oust Batley preemptively because some other things might be discovered?  Is there more news to follow from Lexington?  Nobody can say right now, and the possibilities mentioned above are total speculation and conjecture on the part of this blogger, as of right now.  There’s always the chance that — and you might want to hold onto something, here — the violation really is just a tiny thing that UK is playing it very safe (and understandably so) by reporting, and Batley really is going back to Houston for the aforementioned family illness.  If that is indeed the case, of course we hope everything turns out well for the Batley family.

I have one question, though.  Given what’s happened, the “minor-ness” of the violation becomes more compelling.  I mean, the guy grabbed a few rebounds for somebody while on his way to take care of something else; the NCAA is one bizarre organization when it comes to evaluating crimes and doling out punishment, but it would have to be utterly insane to attach any penalty to that.  People take leaves-of-absence from jobs all the time when family members get sick, and they’re often allowed to come back.  In fact, as most of you know, depending on who the family member is, your job is protected by law if you choose to take leave.  Jobs at programs like Kentucky don’t just grow on trees.  Maybe I’m misinformed on the whole thing, but a job like “Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager” sounds like one that another person in the department could handle for a short time while Batley tends to the family issues, so that he could return when those matters are resolved (happily, we hope).  No matter whose decision it was, why is Batley now totally unassociated with the program?  Why would he seemingly remove himself or let himself be removed from such a plum position at a Leviathan program like Kentucky so quickly and so soon after taking the job in the first place, and over so minor an incident?

Who knows — right now, it looks like there’s no fire associated with this smoke.  But we’re going to stay tuned.

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Pitino Hurts His Own Cause

Posted by jstevrtc on August 26th, 2009

The Rick Pitino 3pm news conference has just ended.  If you didn’t get to see it, you didn’t miss much (video highlights posted below).  All we saw was a frustrated man. 

Pitino basically just wanted to get up in public and tell the media why he doesn’t like what they do (at least when they say negative things about him), and then thinks he has the authority to go tell them what they SHOULD be covering.  He made a couple of references to how he didn’t understand why the media was covering the release of the Karen Sypher tapes “on the day that Ted Kennedy has died.”  He seemed ticked off that the New York media had been reporting on the subject today, and was surprised that they would do so, because — Pitino’s own words — the New York media had always treated him with respect.  (Ed. note – Pitino made no comment on the Boston media.)  His frustration on this point was compounded since he describes himself as “a proud New Yorker,” which has never been disputed.  And he reiterated his faith that the truth will come out during the upcoming trial.

I agree with Pitino that there really isn’t much actual NEW information to be reported by these news outlets — Pitino specifically singled out Fox 41 in Louisville during the press conference.  They seemed to want to take Sypher’s rape allegation (which was all but squashed by the Louisville police, in terms of its credibility) and report it as a new story, when in fact people have known about that particular facet of all of this for a while, now.  What I don’t understand is why, when (as Pitino admitted during his rant) he has his legal team telling him not to talk, when he has the authorities telling him not to talk, when he most likely has his friends and family telling him not to talk, Pitino hears this advice and thinks, “Right!  I’ll call a press conference!”  If you have faith in the trial, then let the trial do the talking.

pitino white suit

Now, I have no comprehension as to what’s going on in this man’s life — that is, in his home, within the confines of his marriage and regarding his relationship with his family.  That’s nobody’s business but his own, though Pitino openly admits that there have been problems and that his wife is certainly struggling with all of this, to say the least.  Who couldn’t understand that?  No question that whole clan is in hell right now.  And if you’re Rick Pitino, it’s beyond frustrating to turn on the news and watch them try to take what appears to be, at this point, OLD information and report it in a way that makes it look like something new has developed.  The unfortunate fact is that this is par for the course and it results from a bad decision that Pitino himself made back at that restaurant.  This treatment from the media is something he’s just going to have to endure.

But today’s press conference highlights something that Pitino has never learned, and that’s the fact that he is not “above” the people to whom he is speaking.  You can’t come out there and tell the media what they SHOULD be reporting, like the poor economy (it’s been covered a little already) or the death of Ted Kennedy (not the domain of local sports reporters).  People don’t like to be told how to do their jobs any more than he does.  You can’t get up there and talk about how you’re from New York and expect people to be impressed by it; it’s not going to gain you any extra credibility. 

Rick Pitino is a great basketball coach, and for the most part he’s pretty media-savvy, which makes today’s press conference all the more puzzling.  If you don’t think there’s any real news to report about a bad decision you made several years ago — don’t go out and create it. 

We’ll continue to review the newly-released tapes and be back with more on this issue as events warrant.

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08.21.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2009

It has been a loooooong week around these parts, but now that we’ve crowned a Team of the 2000s, let’s move on to some other goings-on and nuggets of news floating around the college hoops world…

  • Comings and Goings.  There have been a few announcements of players who are out for the upcoming semester as we’re heading into fall matriculation.  The most notable are Villanova wing Reggie Redding and Florida big men Eloy Vargas and Adam Allen.  Redding was suspended by the university arising out of an incident where marijuana was allegedly found in his car at an accident, but he is expected to return for the spring semester.  Allen recently had surgery for a stress fracture and Vargas is academically ineligible for the fall semester.  Although neither were major contributors for Florida in 08-09, they were expected to provide depth in the frontcourt this season.  On the flip side, former Dookie Elliot Williams received his waiver from the NCAA and will be eligible to suit up immediately for his hometown Memphis Tigers this season. 
  • 2009 NIT Bracket.  The pairings were announced a week ago, but we’re just now getting around to analyzing it.  They’ve seeded the top four teams by region (#1 Duke, #2 UConn, #3 LSU, and #4 Arizona St) in a solid, if not spectacular, field.  But did anyone else notice that they mismatched the seedings?  Take a closer look at the thumbnail below.  If the top eight seeds win their first game, then we should be left with pairings of 1/8, 2/7, 3/6 and 4/5, right?  In this NIT bracket, #1 Duke would play #8 Charlotte, so that’s ok; but, #2 UConn would play #6 Hofstra, #3 LSU would play #5 WKU, and #4 Arizona St. would play #7 TCU.  What’s the point of this?  If you’re going to take the time to seed teams by expectation, you should probably do it properly rather than trying to slot teams based on regional travel convenience.  Sigh…   For what it’s worth, Duke seems to always win this thing, but depending on how quickly replacement players develop on the other top seeds, any of the others could surprise.

2009 NIT Brackets

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

Posted by nvr1983 on August 12th, 2009

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
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Pitino’s Sex in the Champagne Room

Posted by nvr1983 on August 12th, 2009

As we mentioned in our earlier “Buzz” post about the topic, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reportedly admitted to local law enforcement officials that he had consensual sex with Karen Sypher at Porky’s Porcini’s, a local restaurant, on August 1, 2003 (perhaps in this private room) and paid $3,000 for Sypher to have an abortion (more on this later). While the fact that a powerful male figure having sex outside of his marriage isn’t that shocking, the way that this story has come about is surprising nonetheless (not unlike the recent Josh Hamilton photos).  The saga, which we first reported to the nation back in April, became a national story when Pitino accused Sypher (the estranged wife of Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher) of attempting to extort him for cash, cars and college tuition. It simmered for a while as random speculation about an affair (what else could it be?) until Matt Jones over at Kentucky Sports Radio uncovered a photo (below) from Sypher’s indictment day featuring a sign held by one of her sons suggesting Sypher may have had an abortion.

Apparently, the Answer is $3000

Apparently, the Answer is $3000

Then, a series of strange events at Louisville earlier this summer calls into question the validity of some of Pitino’s motives in the interim.  Pitino’s son Richard had been an assistant coach at U of L, and earlier this year he was sent to fill the same position under Billy Donovan at Florida.  Now, Pitino has remarked several times over the years that he never considers “lateral” movements in terms of evaluating potential coaching jobs and he encourages his assistants never to do the same with their careers.  When Richard Pitino made basically a lateral move from Louisville to Florida around the time that all this Karen Sypher stuff started, you heard a few rumblings, wondering why Pitino’s son wouldn’t be subject to the same advice as Pitino’s other proteges. Then of course there was the strange acceptance of Ralph Willard into the fold; among coaching ranks, Willard has always been known as a guy who has the coaching chops to handle the captaincy of even the most elite programs in the sport, but simply kept his spot at Holy Cross because he enjoyed coaching there.  He is more of a contemporary than a protege of Pitino’s, and he’s a longtime member of Rick’s inner circle.  The fact that Willard would suddenly make such a strange move was certainly curious, but the matter was dismissed pretty quickly as the Sypher story developed.  Then things got relatively quiet until the news that Sypher’s sexual assault charge against Pitino had been dropped.  Once those charges were dropped, we expected the story to fade away except on Louisville’s trips to the arenas of their more vocal rivals – can you imagine the taunts that will rain down upon him in Rupp Arena and other tough environs, now?

With what we know now, can we say that these moves were just coincidences?  That Richard Pitino simply wanted to get out from under his father’s shadow and stake his own claim?  That Ralph Willard wanted less responsibility as a coach, was ready to leave a place he loved, and just wanted the chance to coach with his old friend again?  Or were these moves representative of a head coach and a father who was getting a few affairs in order?  Was Pitino getting his son Richard out of the media maelstrom he knew was probably coming, asking an old friend and protege in Billy Donovan to take care of his son and let him continue his coaching education in case these personal matters took a bad turn?  Was Pitino bringing in a high-quality coach and old friend like Willard to be his lead assistant and possibly take over Pitino’s Cardinal program in case the Sypher situation started to blow up and Pitino needed to leave the spotlight for a while?  Knowing what a calculating man that Rick Pitino is, it’s hard — in fact, next to impossible — for me to think that these moves were simply coincidental.  No, from our view – Rick Pitino knew this thing was percolating and likely to explode, and he was making sure certain valuables were protected.

Now that we have details to support (?) Sypher’s claims, we have to wonder how this story ever got so big (outside of the obvious salacious details that came out today). Reading Sypher’s account of the incident(s) [both the “confirmed” sex at Porcini’s and the alleged sex at her eventual husband’s apartment] it is pretty clear that her story is a little hole-y.

We'll Be Seeing More of Her (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

We'll Be Seeing More of Her (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

Key Questions

  • Why would Sypher marry a man (Tim Sypher) who was present for the rape by Pitino that she claims happened at his apartment?
  • How and why would she trouble herself to find out that she was pregnant almost 2 weeks after their first encounter (possible, but has the strong scent of Gold Diggerism)?
  • Was she even pregnant? While the reported dates of all the exams/tests are possible, they border on the edge of being so early that one could reasonably question whether she was actually pregnant.

Given how ridiculous the entire story is one would expect that Pitino should come out of this relatively unscathed (professionally-speaking – we’re sure that Mrs. Pitino, on the other hand, has tightened that leash significantly). One might also expect the release of this information to be enough to kill any potential civil suit that Sypher has, but judging by her reported history in the article we’re guessing this isn’t that last we will hear of her. If this story and the Ben Roethlisberger story have taught guys out there anything (other than ESPN reports what it wants when it wants), it is this:  if she looks or acts a little crazy and you’re a celebrity worth millions, just walk away because there are plenty of other women out there who won’t make your life a living hell after one encounter.

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Buzz: Pitino Admits to Affair With His (Alleged) Extortionist

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2009

Blockbuster news out of Louisville tonight, as the Courier-Journal is reporting that Rick Pitino admitted to police that he had consensual sex with Karen Sypher, the woman who allegedly tried to extort him for houses, cars and money.  The police reports show that Pitino had sex in a restaurant (all class, Rick!) with Sypher on August 1, 2003, and later gave her $3000 for an abortion as a result of that tryst.  Sypher has since alleged that Pitino raped her on that occasion as well as one other time, but prosecutors have to date resisted bringing charges on the matter, citing issues of Sypher’s credibility.  While the federal extortion charges remain against Sypher, we wonder whether this revelation might swing public opinion in Louisville more in favor of Sypher.  Probably not – after all, Pitino has two straight Elite Eights under his belt.

Follow-up Post: Pitino’s Sex in the Champagne Room

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07.20.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 20th, 2009

Is there a worse time of year for roundball fans than July/August?  Well, is there?  Let’s see what’s been cooking over the last week or so…

  • Economics, NCAA Style.  Have you guys heard that we’re in a recession – that the economy may not exactly be whirring along at a blistering pace?  Inevitably, college athletic departments are starting to feel the crunch nearly as much as your local Citibastard – some are cutting expenses such as chartered flights and media guides, while even the venerable and uber-rich Stanford athletic department is cutting employees.  Meanwhile, schools such as UCLA, Cal, and others are instituting high-dollar seat licensing fees (we’re talking hundreds of thousands) to finance their stadium renovations and attend their games for the next quarter-century.  Crisis is another word for opportunity, and we’re wondering if the current economic climate will only provide leverage for the NCAA haves (Florida, Texas, Ohio St., UCLA, etc.) to exploit and exacerbate the widening gap between themselves and the have-nots by using private equity as the hammer.  The NCAA ADs have given lip service to construct a more equitable model of competition for its member institutions, but like the Yankees/Red Sox freight train in MLB, the arms race inertia is already accelerating downhill and moving too quickly to be stopped.  The final solution may ultimately have to be a separation of BCS schools from the remainder of D1, and to get there, you have to pay to play.   
  • 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Last year we had very high hopes that the Big Ten would finally get off the mat and win one of these challenges.  Alas, MSU took its first of two emasculations at the hands of UNC last year in Ford Field, and the Midwesterners lost 6-5.  This year’s schedule is out, and unfortunately for the Big Ten, our first glance reveals that the odds are significantly in the ACC’s favor to win this event again.  The Monday and Tuesday night games (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1) favor home teams Virginia, NC State, UNC, Purdue and Iowa, but we’d expect the ACC to break serve by Maryland winning in Bloomington for an early 4-2 lead.  Even with a Dec. 2 slate that favors the Big Ten, with Michigan and OSU holding serve at home to match Clemson, we’d expect Minnesota to get a road win at Miami (FL) only for the league to fall on its face again when Duke does what it does and rips Wisconsin a new one in the Kohl Center.  The ACC wins again, 6-5.  We have it coming down to three road winners, with the ACC taking two of them (Maryland and Duke).  How do you see it?
  • UConn Savior?  This was quiet over the weekend but we find it to be a significant piece of news out of the UConn program, which is that the oft-confounding Ater Majok has committed that he will indeed play for Jim Calhoun’s Huskies next season.  Majok’s eligibility has been a wild ride for UConn faithful, beginning a year-plus ago with his verbal commitment and two semesters of classwork in Storrs, only to be followed by a flirtation with the NBA Draft (withdrawing) and lucrative professional options overseas.  The versatile 6’10 forward will help Calhoun shore up a somewhat inexperienced frontcourt led by returnees Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards, and if the reports of his potential are true, could provide an offensive force on the blocks to relieve some of the pressure from the very talented perimeter tandem of Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson.  Major good news for the UConn program, which has taken its share of hits the past few months.   
  • Quick Hits.  Noel Johnson: the former USC recruit will end up at ClemsonDave Bliss: resurfaces in Texas (not coaching, thank God).  Karen Sypher: no merit to her complaint against PitinoTark the Shark: his spinal surgery delayedKeno Davisextended through 2016Al-Farouq Aminu: looking to dominate in 2009-10Larry Sanders: thinking first round next season.  Renardo Sidney: Part 1 of the NCAA inquiryLance Stephenson: much ado about disorderly conductJared Sullinger: another in a run of Buckeye bigsHarrison Barnes: get used to that nameMichael Gilchrist: another World Wide Wes guy with no chance at a childhoodSeth Davis: analyzes the top players on the summer recruiting circuitSouth Carolina: in violation of impermissible snackage.
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06.24.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 24th, 2009

What’s this?  Two days in a row with FBs?  Indeed.  There’s a lot to get caught up on…

  • Duke Downer.  The biggest news today was the news that Duke point guard Elliot Williams (he of the happy, happy feet) will be leaving the Duke program so that he can move closer to Memphis, his hometown.  Reportedly his mother is facing a life-threatening illness there and Williams wants to be nearby for support as she battles her disease.  He plans on petitioning the NCAA to waive the one-year transfer obligation so that he will be able to play immediately at his new school (presumably Memphis).  This is undoubtedly a major blow to Coach K’s backcourt in 2009-10, as he’ll now be left with only Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith to log minutes there.  Big things were expected of Williams based on his insertion into the starting lineup at midseason and his excellent all-around play down the stretch.  Duke fans are largely crushed by this news, given the unfortunate circumstances causing it as well as the huge, gaping hole in the backcourt it leaves (while, ironically, the perfect fix named Seth Curry can only wait and watch next season).  In other Duke news that came out today, Coach K is the highest paid Duke employee by far ($3.6M last year) – no surprise there.
  • Like Father, Not Like Son.  A bit of a surprise today is that Jeffrey Jordan (you know, that Mike guy’s son) is ending his basketball career at Illinois to focus on his studies.  This comes on the heels of news from earlier this year that Jordan’s hard work and commitment to the program had resulted in a scholarship for the rest of his time at the school.  Guess he’d had enough.  Actually, we can totally understand this.  Jordan was undeniably under more pressure to perform than any walk-on turned scholarship player in the history of college basketball, and although it made for nice copy, it’s safe to say that Jordan probably didn’t love the sport anywhere near the same as his famous dad.  He probably reached a personal epiphany of some kind that included a heart-to-heart with pops, and once MJ gave him the blessing, he’s now free to pursue the activities he truly enjoys.  Good for him.  And good for him for working his tail off in his two years at Illinois to go from walk-on to scholarship to expected contributor, despite limited talent.
  • Vegas, Baby.  The WAC has followed its mid-major brethren WCC and Mountain West Conferences by moving its postseason tournament to Las Vegas, where the Orleans Arena will host beginning in 2011.  This comes on the heels of a very successful WCC Tournament at the Orleans last year, where a sold-out, raucous arena was shown on national television for St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga.  The MWC already holds its conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center down the street, and this move by the WAC means that Vegas will become the basketball destination for every legitimate conference (save the Pac-10) west of the Rockies every March.  Sounds like a really fun environment for fans of these leagues.
  • No, No, NoEveryone got this wrongDerrick Rose wasn’t flashing a gang sign in the below pic, he was practicing universal remote hand signals for the letter “B” on the SAT exam.

derrick rose hand signals

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What’s Going On With Pitino?

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2009

Ok, we’re going to put our tin foil hat on here for a few minutes.  It’s summer, and nobody is reading this anyway.  But we’re really having trouble understanding the news today that Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard (and longtime Pitino buddy) will leave his successful, self-made program in Worcester, Mass. to become an assistant coach at Louisville.

Read that again: assistant coach at Louisville.


To open our conspiracy theory, let’s consider all the reasons that Willard shouldn’t have so much as considered this job, much less taken it.

  • Willard’s been a head coach for the last 19 years, first at Western Kentucky, then at Pitt, and spending the last decade at Holy Cross.
  • Holy Cross is Willard’s alma mater (Class of 1967), and he’s turned down other head coaching opportunities at higher profile places to stay there.
  • Willard is arguably HC’s best coach ever.  In ten seasons he’s taken the Crusaders to four NCAA Tournaments as Patriot League champions, won 20+ games five times, and has gone 192-117 (.621) in his career there.  It’s safe to say that he could have held on to this job as long as he wanted it.
  • It wouldn’t be unfathomable to believe that his salary, even at a Patriot League school, was higher than what Louisville can afford to pay its top assistant.  At worst, we’d expect the two to be comparable.

So in the spirit of 9/11 was Saddam’s Bush’s Israel’s doing paranoids everywhere, we have to wonder what the hell is going on here?

Then we started thinking… a lot has gone on at Louisville in the past few months.  To recap:

Throw that in with the persistent rumors of a nameless medical condition dogging Pitino, and it wouldn’t be outside a reasonable realm of possibility for us to think that Ralph Willard has been promised something to become Pitino’s insurance policy.  What if Pitino’s legal battles, familial problems and/or medical issues require him to take a leave of absence for a bit, similar to what Lute Olson did at Arizona?  Wouldn’t it make sense to have a friend he’s known and trusted for 40+ years ready to move in at the helm if necessary?  Or what if Pitino is once again feeling his well-documented propensity for wanderlust, and although he wasn’t interested in taking the Kings job this spring, he would be interested in other more high-profile NBA/college jobs should they open up?  In that situation, he could essentially pull a Dean Smith/Bill Guthridge and leave the Louisville post to his top guy.

Or this could all be nonsense, chalked up to people sometimes doing irrational things, and we’re completely off base in our analysis.  You’ll excuse us as we now go watch the Apollo 11 space landing in Arizona from the comfort of our alien-built spaceship in Area 51 while riffing some fresh beats with 2Pac and Biggie.

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