Pitino Apologizes For "Indiscretion"

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino on Wednesday apologized for his "indiscretion" of having sex with a woman who later was charged with trying to extort him and vowed to continue coaching the Cardinals for as long as "they will have me."

His comments were the first since news broke Tuesday that he told police that he and Karen Sypher had sex on a table at a Louisville restaurant six years ago.

Two weeks later, the married father of five gave Sypher $3,000 after she said she needed an abortion and didn't have health insurance, according to a summary of Pitino's July 12 statement to police. His attorney said the money was to help her get medical coverage, not specifically to pay for an abortion.

"I do want to say that the past seven months have been very difficult on the people I love," Pitino said. "I am here today because I personally apologize to my family every single day. I let them down with my indiscretion six years ago and I'm sorry for that and I tell them that every day."

He said he would "be quiet" about the extortion case, but that he is cooperating with authorities and has consistently told them, his family and friends the truth. He did not take questions.

University of Louisville President James Ramsey expressed surprise at the new details in the scandal surrounding the coach, a staunch Roman Catholic whose contract includes dishonesty and "moral depravity" as grounds for firing.

"Several months ago, Coach Pitino informed me about the alleged extortion attempt. I've now been informed that there may be other details which, if true, I find surprising," Ramsey said in a statement, adding that his thoughts were with the Pitino family.

Pitino finished his eighth season with the Cardinals, leading them to a 31-6 record and the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. The Cardinals lost to Michigan State in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.

Pitino said he wants to celebrate the team's success and move forward.

"I don't believe in anything as much as I believe in this university and this state," Pitino said. "So as long as they will have me, as long as they'll have me, I'm going to coach here."

Pitino told police he had been drinking at an upscale Louisville restaurant called Porcini in August 2003 when Sypher approached him and asked the coach to call her sons with words of encouragement. The coach obliged, he said.

Later that night, after the restaurant cleared out, the owner left Pitino his keys and they had sex at a table near the bar, according to statements by both Pitino and Sypher.

She said Pitino forced himself on her. But the 56-year-old coach denied Sypher's allegations that he raped her that night, and again several weeks later, saying she came on to him.

The two apparently weren't alone in the restaurant: The police documents, first reported by The Courier-Journal of Louisville, say a Pitino assistant was there during the encounter. The former executive assistant, Vinnie Tatum, said he heard "only the sounds of two people that seemed to be enjoying themselves during a sexual encounter," according to a statement he gave the FBI that was included in the police report.

Sypher reported the rape allegations to police last month, but Kentucky authorities said there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute. Sypher, 49, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of lying to the FBI and trying to extort $10 million from Pitino.

Sypher's attorney, James Earhart, said Wednesday morning that he hadn't yet talked to Sypher about the release of the police documents.

Pitino told police that about two weeks after he met Sypher -- then named Karen Cunagin -- she called to say she was pregnant and that he had to be the father.

According to the report by Sgt. Andy Abbott, commander of the Metro Louisville Police sex-offense unit, Pitino later suggested that the two meet at the condo of the team's equipment manager, Tim Sypher. She alleges the second assault took place at the condo. Pitino told police the two met at the condo but denied that there was a second sexual encounter.

Karen Sypher first met the manager that day and later married him.

Pitino said she told him she was going to have an abortion but didn't have health insurance, so he gave her $3,000, according to the report. She told police the procedure was done in Cincinnati.

Pitino's lawyer, Steve Pence, told The Associated Press that the coach believed the money was for insurance, not an abortion. Pence said Pitino asked Sypher how much the insurance would cost and she told him $3,000.

"The way this has been reported in the media is not accurate," Pence said. "The coach has not done anything illegal."

Despite Ramsey's surprise at the new details, the school's athletic director, Tom Jurich, said in a statement that "Coach Pitino has been truthful with us about this matter all along and we stand by him and his family during this process."

If Pitino wasn't forthcoming with his employer, the consequences could be more severe than negative headlines.

His contract, which runs through 2013, lists as possible causes for termination: "Employee's dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity," as well as "disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University."

Pitino is a dedicated Roman Catholic who has brought a priest who's a close friend and spiritual adviser on team trips.

Abbott asked Sypher during one interview why she waited until after she was indicted to report the rape allegations.

She gave varying answers, according to transcripts, saying she wanted to forget about it, that Pitino threatened her and finally that "they kept throwing crumbs to keep me happy."

Abbott asked Sypher why she was coming forward only after she was charged.

"Because ... where we are, it seems like retaliation," Abbott said.

"I know it does," Sypher responded.

Tatum, the former executive assistant to Pitino, told the FBI he was in the restaurant during the first encounter but he didn't see anything. A message Wednesday for Tatum at his office in the university's basketball practice facility was not immediately returned.

The case became public in April when Pitino announced that someone had tried to extort him. Pitino said he reported it to the FBI, and Sypher surrendered to authorities a few days later when she was named in a criminal complaint.

University sports information director Kenny Klein directed all inquiries to Pence.

Tim Sypher was Pitino's personal assistant with the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, then followed the coach to Louisville in 2001. He and Karen Sypher are currently going through a divorce.

Tim Sypher's divorce attorney declined comment through his secretary.

The criminal complaint said Tim Sypher brought Pitino a written list of demands from his wife, including college tuition for her children, two cars, money to pay off her house and $3,000 per month. The demands later escalated, the complaint said. Tim Sypher has not been charged.

Besides Louisville and the Celtics, Pitino coached the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and the University of Kentucky from 1989 to 1997.


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