LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - At the end of his eight-year run as the University of Kentucky men's head basketball coach, Rick Pitino had restored the program to the top of college basketball. Years later, he guided the University of Louisville to similar heights only to see his time as head coach tarnished by scandal.
"Came here to clean up a scandal at one school and is leaving amid of a series of scandals at the other school...that's almost a Shakespearean narrative," said Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story.
Louisville hired Pitino in March 2001 to take over the basketball program following the retirement of Denny Crum. He led the team to a National Championship in 2013 becoming the first NCAA Division I coach in history to win a championship with two different schools. He also earned a national title during his tenure at the University of Kentucky, where he coached from 1989 to 1997.
During his time at Louisville, Pitino was the target of an extortion attempt. He admitted to having an affair with Karen Sypher, the wife of a Louisville equipment manager. A federal judge convicted Sypher. She served several years in prison and was recently released.
In another scandal, escort Katina Powell wrote a book in 2015 claiming a Louisville basketball staffer paid an escort service to have sex with players and recruits from 2010-2014. The book identifies the staffer as former Louisville basketball player Andre McGee, who played for the Cardinals from 2005-2009. Powell also told ESPN that McGee paid $10,000 for 22 shows that took place in a Louisville dormitory from 2010 to 2014. After investigating, the NCAA vacated up to 123 victories, including Louisville's 2013 championship title, and suspended Pitino for failing to monitor McGee. The university filed an appeal in August of this year.
"I think obviously these scandal-impacted years late in his career has an impact on how his legacy will be viewed," said Story.
A Pitino jersey hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena, as do other banners marking the success of his time at UK. Now, the circumstances of his likely departure from Louisville further complicate his legacy in Kentucky.