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.
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 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 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.
- 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.