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Can Rick Pitino Recover His Image?

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In the August annals of sports hell, leave it to college basketball, of all places, to provide the news cycle its lead story. In all fairness, this has nothing to do with basketball, although there was some scoring.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino's tawdry relationship with Karen Cunagin Sypher has to be one of the most bizarre tales of adultery, abortions, and appetizers I've ever heard. For a few months, he weathered the waves when all anyone knew was a woman was trying to extort money out of him. But now we know more.

Pitino denied cries of rape, but it doesn't look like he Clintoned himself by categorically denying any kind of restaurant hanky-panky with the estranged wife of his former basketball assistant.

It may be unreasonable to say there's a trend of successful college basketball coaches behaving badly. Nevertheless, Larry Eustachy, Eddie Sutton, and Bob Huggins — all men who won Coach of the Year from a respected entity — were brought down to earth with alcohol problems. (Perhaps that's why Isiah Thomas took the Florida International job. He heard he'd fit right in.)

Pitino is now on that list by ordering something forbidden that wasn't on the menu — a practice only accepted at In-N-Out Burger. Looking at it case by case, Eustachy and Huggins found work quickly thereafter, and Sutton retired with some semblance of dignity. There's no doubt that the man with an NCAA championship and the only coach to send three schools to the Final Four will probably never live this down. Marv Albert, for example, carries with him the stigma of dressing up in women's underwear. But he proved there is life after NBC in the '90s — mostly because he wasn't a Seinfeld cast member — and Albert is now broadcasting games for TNT.

Just like, well, every other example listed above, perhaps Pitino will simply need a change of scenery. His contract with Louisville contains a "moral depravity" clause, so it's very possible UL may sever ties with a great basketball coach to save face. (Then they can play Indiana in the Ass Covering Preseason Classic.)

If there was no forced sex, Pitino's actions are merely disgusting, just not criminal. Worse was done by better men who are still standing today (like, say, recruiting violations) so if Louisville kicks him out, you will very likely see Rick Pitino walking back through that door.

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