Rick Pitino isn’t just quietly sitting back as he boycotts the state of Kentucky.
While his horse racing team is gearing up for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in early May, Pitino is vehemently refusing to join his co-owners as his filly, Coach Rocks, looks primed to earn a spot in the field.
Sure, Pitino may be getting a little ahead of himself here, but it’s not so much his stance that is noteworthy as the words he used to describe it.
“I will not go unless David Grissom and the pizza guy, Papa John, retire from the board of trustees,” Pitino told reporters. “Then I’ll be there.”
That pizza guy is John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s, who joined Louisville’s Board of Trustees in 2017 and is scheduled to serve until 2022. Grissom is the Vice Chairman of the board with a term set to expire in 2023. Both had a hand in Pitino’s ousting shortly before the college basketball season began. Both are unlikely to step down from their positions any time soon.
In the six months since UofL fired Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, it doesn’t appear that anyone has really calmed down. The coach still feels he was a scapegoat for a program caught too many times violating NCAA rules — to say nothing of being wrapped up in an ongoing FBI investigation — and that only God can judge him.
So, yeah, maybe it’s a bit obvious that Pitino wouldn’t want to return to Louisville in the middle of the city’s biggest party where he’s sure to run into old friends and current enemies alike.
But you know what would be better than that? If Pitino did return to Churchill Downs and wound up in the Winner’s Circle.
Just imagine the scene: Pitino being lauded by a community in Kentucky that rivals that of its basketball junkies, celebrating another win on a national stage and being handed a giant, first place check for $600,000 — which just so happens to be the same amount that the Cardinals forfeited in NCAA postseason revenue due to the scandal.
It’s almost too perfect and sure to make the likes of Grissom, Schnatter and the rest of the board go a bit mad.
Pitino won’t be at the Kentucky Oaks, but maybe he should be.
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