At Louisville, None Major in Accountability
Back in August, during the toxic dump of details of Rick Pitino's role in an extortion case that dragged the reputations of the coach, the University of Louisville and the basketball program through the mud, one obvious question that arose was whether Pitino's authority as head coach was undermined forever. After all, how can any coach who exercises that little self-discipline ever expect, much less demand, discipline from his players?
He can't. And this week, the red-and-black chickens have come home to roost.
Two Louisville players, Terrence Jennings and Jerry Smith, were arrested last weekend after a conflict with police officers at a party in nearby Jeffersonville, Ind.; both will be charged with resisting law enforcement, according to published reports. Jennings ended up being Tasered and Smith handcuffed when he came to help.
Pitino said that neither will miss a game "They will be punished, and are being punished right now,'' he told ESPN.com. The punishment is coming before practice even officially begins Friday. Again, it will not involve any missed games, or even parts of games, he said.
Remember, the school didn't even feel a need to slap Pitino's wrist, after the seemingly endless reports of late-night extramarital trysts atop a restaurant table, of payoffs and abortions and bizarre employee-marriage triangles. The athletic director, Tom Jurich, said after the allegations became public -- and after Pitino admitted, in his own defense, that he had consensual sex with his accuser -- that he stands "a million percent behind him.'' School president Dr. James Ramsey went only far enough to say he was "saddened and disappointed,'' praising Pitino for setting a positive example for the students by admitting his mistake (once the feds showed up to ask him about it, naturally).
Jennings and Smith had better hope that Jurich and Ramsey are "a million percent'' behind them if the publicity surrounding their arrest ever goes negative. Granted, they remain only charges now, not convictions, but Jennings did apologize publicly, and the players are undergoing the unspecified punishment. Which one can assume is harsher than the complete lack of punishment Pitino received.
For a man, Pitino, praised so effusively by his own superiors for teaching life lessons from his nationwide humiliation, he can't possibly believe that his players aren't reading that lesson this way: Do well on the court, and all will be forgiven.
He had to know that his turn was coming. After showing the type of utter lack of self-control that's more associated with college underclassmen -- especially entitled-athlete underclassmen -- he was going to face
disciplining his own, and send a message that what they did was unacceptable and was not to be condoned, much less applauded as a fine example of being a role model.
When it happened, Pitino didn't do it, at least not in any noticeable way. Or is it that he couldn't? He likely is the only one who can answer that. Everyone else has to guess, based on what he's already gotten away with himself.
Nobody has to guess this, though: Pitino is now reaping what he had sown. What's gone around has come around. And if this is the only time it happens from now on, he'll be even luckier than he was this past summer.