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Rick Pitino’s lawyer refutes report that he knew about payment made to recruit

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Michigan v Louisville

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals reacts to their 69-73 loss to the Michigan Wolverines during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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Following a report that former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino allegedly knew about payments being made in an attempt to land recruits, Pitino’s lawyer, Steve Pence, responded that those claims were “false, misleading and defamatory” in a statement released on Thursday.

Tom Winter of NBC News initially reported that Pitino allegedly knew about a potential payment to a recruit based on a paragraph from the unsealed indictment. Eight of the 10 men arrested in the college basketball scandal from earlier this fall were indicted on federal charges earlier this week.

Known as “Coach-2" in the indictment documents, Winter released a paragraph about Pitino’s potential involvement in the matter.

This excerpt from the unsealed indictment is the part about Pitino:

“Specifically, (defendant Christian) Dawkins explained that while Coach-2 and the University of Louisville were recruiting the student-athlete Dawkins asked Coach-2 to call James Gatto, a/k/a “Jim,” the defendant, to request that Company-1 (adidas) provide the money requested by the family of the student-athlete, which Coach-2 agreed to do.”

Pence released his own statement on Pitino in response to the allegations on Thursday.
“Coach Pitino was not aware of, and did not participate in, any payment to any recruits or their families. The recent indictment returned in New York does not allege that Coach Pitino was aware of, nor that he participated in, any payment to any recruits or their families. Reports to the contrary are false, misleading and defamatory,” Pence said in the statement.

“The only mention of Coach Pitino in the indictment is a single statement by defendant Dawkins, who boasted that he had communicated with Coach Pitino about the scheme concocted by him and his co-conspirators. Dawkins made a similar boast about communications with a coach at the University of Miami. But these statements by Dawkins are wholly uncorroborated, inconsistent with other proof and, more importantly, false.”

As Pence later noted in his full statement, which can be read on the Courier Journal’s website, he believes that Dawkins’ propensity to name-drop coaches to enhance his own reputation is why Pitino -- as well as Miami head coach Jim Larranaga -- were mentioned in the indictment. Larranaga, like Pitino, has been identified in the FBI’s reports, but there are no wiretapped conversations of record involving either head coach.

Pitino spoke willingly to the FBI once the investigation was brought to light earlier this fall and he has maintained his innocence throughout this whole thing, even going on a televised interview with Jay Bilas to state his case.

Despite Pitino maintaining his innocence, the University of Louisville opted to fire Pitino, with cause, after initially placing him on unpaid administrative leave.

(H/t: The Courier Journal)