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Pitino's no devil compared to other scandals

My vacations are usually spent thinking about work as little as possible. I fall out of normal routines such as reading favorite news sites, scanning the paper and watching SportsCenter. You know, the usual. There's rarely anything crucial I have to see. (Except for maybe this story; everyone should be up to date on plane travel issues.)

But then something like Rick Pitino hits, and my vacation philosophy goes out the window.

Spent last week in Kansas to see family and attend a friend's wedding and couldn't get away from Pitino, Karen Sypher and the whole sordid mess. That saga – along with Tiger at the PGA – was guaranteed to spark long discussions on coaches and other people of power getting caught in tabloid-worthy scandals.

George Widman/AP
Rick Pitino


As a result, I spent a sizable portion of Monday trolling the Web for more news and option on Pitino. Couldn't be helped. It's one of those stories impossible to ignore. Three spots were valuable as one-stop reading sources, though.

The mass media reaction was captured by Card Chronicle. The Dagger sported an Internet roundup. And Rush the Court posted various items offering a candid assessment of it all.

The consensus? Pitino messed up, both in his choice of late-night entertainment and how he handled the fall-out, right away and in ensuring years. How could someone obviously so smart and media savvy botch this whole thing so badly?

Still, it's not the worst thing to hit the sport recently, or even this decade. Tough to argue with Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News, who compiled the Top 10 coaching scandals of the 2000s. Pitino didn't make the cut (and Kelvin Sampson was No. 10) because … man, there were some stupid coaching decisions.

Larry Eustachy's carousing. Foolish recruiting decisions from Quin Snyder and Jim O'Brien. Jim Harrick's son teaching a sham P.E. course. The St. Bonaventure team quitting on Jan van Breda Kloff.

And, of course, Dave Bliss trying to cover up the death of Patrick Dennehy.

Most of those happened in 2003 or 2004, which was such a wave of scandalous behavior that NCAA president Myles Brand wasn't fooling around.

"The NCAA is treating this as if it were a crime wave," Myles said then. "We are hiring more investigators and taking almost a law-and-order approach to misbehavior.

"In those cases (involving high-profile coaches), it makes me wonder whether the coaches, because of their marketability, compensation and fan adulation, have come to feel above the morality and societal norms that govern us all."

Sound like last week? The outrage factor swells, people promise to clean things up and officials adjust. You know, kinda like the fallout from the previous decade.

The '90s brought us the likes of Todd Bozeman, Clem Haskins, Kevin Mackey and Steve Fischer's tarnished tenure at Michigan, to name a few. (Check out AOL's slideshow of 21 scandalous coaches for more details.)

Bad behavior and poor role models for college players isn't something new. And misbehaving coaches are preferable to a run of point-shaving scandals.

The fixes of the early '50s eventually included seven schools and 32 players, including City College of New York, the 1950 NCAA and NIT champs. More point shaving at St. Joe's, Boston College, Tulane, Arizona State and Northwestern occurred over the next 35 years.

Sure, I wish neither was part of the game, but if there's a seedy side to the game, I'd rather it was associated with the coaches, not the players.

Is that wishful thinking that only the coaches are seedy? Perhaps.

Maybe the vacation glow is sticking around longer than it should and turning me into a naïve optimist…