NEWPORT, R.I. – The FBI investigation that has rocked the college basketball world has had a rippling effect that has been felt in all corners of the basketball world – even here in Rhode Island where the Boston Celtics are holding training camp.
Among those affected by the investigation was Louisville head coach Rick Pitino who was put on “administrative leave” without pay.
Multiple reports indicate that the former Celtics head coach and team president will not return as the Cardinals’ head coach.
But Pitino’s connections to Boston extend beyond his short-lived time as the basketball czar of the Celtics franchise.
Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty is a former assistant coach for Pitino in Louisville and played for him at the University of Kentucky.
And Boston’s third-year guard Terry Rozier spent two seasons at Louisville under Pitino before the Celtics drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
Rozier spoke about his former coach prior to the team’s afternoon practice on Wednesday.
“Just a great guy,” Rozier said. “He was tough on us, but it was all love at the end of the day; a guy that I respect.”
The 65-year-old Pitino will leave a Louisville program as one of the most decorated coaches in NCAA history, having won national titles at Kentucky (1996) and Louisville (2013) as part of seven trips to the Final Four.
It remains to be seen if Pitino can resurface somewhere else as a coach, or whether that’s something he is still interested in.
Speaking about the FBI investigation which involved 10 assistant coaches as well as at least one shoe apparel maker, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s sad to see that stuff.”
Stevens, who spent six seasons (2007-2013) as the head coach at Butler University which included a pair of national runner-up (2010 and 2011) finishes prior to coming to Boston, still has close ties to the college game.
So there’s no question, while his focus remains steadfastly on the Celtics, there’s no escaping how much he still deeply cares about the college game.
“Clearly, there’s an issue,” Stevens said. “I think that there’s a lot of guys that are going to be not talked about, that are doing it right and have been doing it right for a long time. Certainly, I don’t think you can paint college athletics with a broad brush. Certainly, there’s a lot of guys doing it the other way too.”
One of the underlying issues in all this is the issue of whether college players should be paid.
Here’s Stevens’ take on that topic.
“There’s a top, small percentage (of athletes) that really brings a lot of attention to their programs and … probably have some market value themselves at that age,” Stevens said. “And then there’s a large number of players on scholarship that don’t bring their scholarship amount to the table from a marketing perspective, right? The hard part from an NCAA perspective would be determining how you divide that, how you decide that.
Stevens added, “But ultimately, that’s somebody else’s job. I have to coach the Celtics.”