Twenty years ago, I was a 24-year-old reporter for The Louisville Courier-Journal. My assignment was to cover Rick Pitino's first basketball team at the University of Kentucky.
(Pitino, of course, is in the news right now for his role in a soap-opera sex-and-extortion scandal -- the latest story is here).
That was an awesome assignment for a 24-year-old, and I knew it. I lived in Lexington, Ky., and was around Pitino almost every day for that first season, as he took a team absolutely decimated by NCAA penalties and transfers and cobbled together something respectable.
You could see Pitino's genius on and off the court -- Lord, his mind was quick and so was his tongue. Plus, he was a charismatic and handsome devil -- by then, the nickname "Slick Rick" had already stuck to him.
Twenty years later, it's time to peel that nickname away. I thought Pitino would be smarter than this, but his still-undetermined role in this sex scandal will now also be part of his legacy.
I just thought Pitino would be smarter than to get involved in something like this. Of course it's natural he would be appealing to other women -- he's always looked 10 years younger than his actual age, and he's a millionaire many times over, and he is thoughtful and quick-witted (and a reporter's dream because he's so quotable).
But Pitino admits consensual sex with the woman, and he gave her $3,000 later (his lawyer says for insurance, she says for an abortion).
It's a sordid affair, undoubtedly. And however it comes out, I'm disappointed with Pitino -- who was so fun to get to know 20 years ago, so admirable, and yet, like all of us, ultimately so flawed.
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