A man is scrolling his social media timeline, the news of a pandemic streamlined into the core of his conscious by one terrifying statistic after another, then the world momentarily stops. News unrelated to the coronavirus hits his feed. An alleged college basketball program called the Iona Gaels happen to be hiring Rick Pitino.
Pitino, best known as the man fired from the Louisville Cardinals after receiving a lifetime achievement in scandal award, is back at the perfect time. The Earth resembles a hellish landscape in the early months of 2020 as it is, adding a little fuel to the fire won't hurt.
Well, it might; although we shouldn't tell that to climate change enthusiasts. Life is tough enough for those invested in happenings that sincerely matter.
Off in the distance somewhere, Dick Vitale is celebrating, drinking red wine, watching the world burn; though none of it matters to him. Spending an unhealthy amount of time advocating for Pitino's return, ignoring virtues he long claimed to care for in the name of reanimating a friend from a figurative death, if ESPN allowed for it, Dicky V would spend the next dew days discussing this is an earned moment for Pitino. That, because he was exiled for a few years, this an arc in Pitino's chapter book with redemption playing a key role.
For those missing context on the Many Scandals of Pitino (free punk rock band name), let's start with most recent. The cherry on top of the scandal pie. Heroic federal prosecutors accused Louisville of using pay for play setup back in September 2017. Damn colleges and companies trying to pay labor, right?!
Eh, let's digress…
Those tremendous icons from the federal office claimed an Adidas executive conspired to pay $100,000 to the family of a top-ranked national recruit to play for the Cardinals, then to represent Adidas when he turned pro.
Hooray, a kid finally getting paid. No one can think this is wrong. Oh… what's that? Evil. Yes, evil! College sportsball fans and writers are pro the wealthy/people in power and anti the labor.
Lonely, a scribe desires to tow the company line.
Louisville wasn’t alleged to — in the wayback machine — be the culprit by name. Nonetheless, anyone with access to Google put two and two together rather quickly. After that, Louisville placed Pitino on unpaid administrative leave, ultimately fired by the school after it voted to do so with cause.
Since it's difficult to keep an elite-level grifter down, Pitino went on a crusade. The usual coach-in-scandal tropes — a “few rotten eggs” and “I was unaware of” — were used by Pitino and his legal team, but it was for not. He was out of college shooty hoops.
Without any NBA team looking to hire a previously awful professional coach who was now mired in scandal, one of the best coaches in the history of the sport headed to Greece to coach Panathinaikos.
The majority assumed it was the end of Pitino as a meaningful entity in American basketball. After all, why wouldn't they? This wasn't his first brush with unbridled, national scandal that transcended basketball. Rick Pitino was an off-and-on again regular talking point on shows like Good Morning America (for all the wrong reasons).
Before any of this, Pitino was asking for the benefit of the doubt, using his defiance as a weapon against the idea he may have known about Andre McGee. It circled around a then-alleged recruiting tactic which was as original as it was wild. Pulling from Joe Francis as inspiration or something, it's not often an escort service is a primary recruiting tool used by college basketball coaches. Whether it was naivety or a general sense of purposed wishful thinking, it was plausible Pitino was unaware about the entire dilly.
Nevertheless, it was curious how quickly that scandal vanished. Then again, knowing what we know now, when diabolical scenarios happen at a pace so quickly the human species can't keep pace, people become numb to it at some point. Not to mention, it helps when those creating the narratives are in a hurry to spin things in a positive direction.
However, Rick Pitino already had a track record of dishonesty. While everyone was convinced he would forever live in shame after being caught committing adultery… he hasn’t. At least not in the eyes of those with the biggest platforms.
Pitino shouldn’t be granted the benefit of the doubt going into his new gig with the Iona Gaels, but virtue-calling wannabes will provide him with exactly that. Not only Pitweeto die-hard fans, either. Ambassadors of the sport will cling to the idea that Pitino is still a man of values, a leader of young men, and other noble visions media members use to paint a picture that college basketball coaches are not only tacticians but truly great people.
Legitimately, for every actual person making a monumental difference in the world of science or education or whatever else have you, old school sportsball writers would like to let you know that going to the Final Four a bunch inherently makes a man virtuous.
This isn’t new. It wasn’t that long ago that one of the sport’s biggest supporters, our aforementioned hero Dick Vitale, went ballistic on those who would even suggest that Jim Boeheim knew anything about anything going on within Syracuse. For Vitale today, and Billy Packer in previous decades, there was and is no way that someone as storied and dignified — with the stature of a king in the 15th century — could ever know or do anything wrong.
Journalism is dying anyway, it's understood. Still, when a sport's biggest personalities are paraded around as objective voices, but forever dancing in the mud alongside problematic people in position of authority, it's less than ideal when attempting to provide the general public an honest depiction.
Anywho, it's 2020 now. California is on fire so regularly it's become the norm. There's a novel virus going around, resulting in a legitimate pandemic. Oh, and Rick Pitino returns to the landscape of unpaid and exploited labor in a rather “do it while no one else is looking” news dump kind of way.
Chef's kiss, my friends.