It probably won’t make Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino feel any better this morning to contemplate how much life would suck if he were Billy Gillispie, but after an angry press conference to address videotaped allegations made by accused extortionist Karen Sypher, at least one local columnist is urging Pitino to take a fistful of calm-the-fuck-down pills. “The next time that news airs about the Pitino-Karen Sypher encounter, Pitino and his family members should change the channel quicker than the coach changes point guards. If he finds his blood pressure escalating when he begins reading stories in the paper similar to this column, flip to a story about his beloved New York Yankees,” declares the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Rick Bozich, gently reminding Pitino that while this sex scandal might not be as crucial as “the economy”, living under scrutiny is part of the job description.
Don’t even consider trolling for stories or message boards on the Internet. It’s not pretty out there. Sexual affairs, especially ones involving extortion, abortion and intercourse in a restaurant, draw the public’s interest. It’s not the most admirable characteristic of the news culture, but it’s reality.
Pitino’s name sells tickets, books and seats at motivational seminars. He is one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. He should not be surprised that his name sells scandal, too, especially after he behaved so recklessly by having sex with Sypher at Porcini restaurant.
Pitino should be as upset with himself as he is at the coverage. Fame comes with responsibilities as well as rewards. It also comes with a public backlash to irresponsible behavior. The backlash is only beginning. Pitino’s unhappiness with the coverage of this story, even if some of it is justified, will not change that.
What Pitino accomplished Wednesday was to recycle the story into another news cycle. He got everybody talking about something that he doesn’t want anybody talking about. Air ball. The story was subsiding nationally. Fresh Pitino sound bites gave it energy.
If Pitino’s intent was to overshadow the midday airing of police interrogation tapes of Sypher, he miscalculated. He created more uncertainty about his ability to survive the ordeal.
While I don’t think Pitino’s presser qualifies as a public meltdown, I also doubt it was necessary for the coach to note the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Are we meant to believe news coverage of Sypher’s charges was somehow disrespectful to Kennedy’s memory? If, by chance, the Cardinals make it to the Final Four this season, will Pitino be quick to turn down an interview with “60 Minutes” or ESPN’s “Sunday Conversation” because, y’know, there are more important things in the world?