Next week, the ACC basketball coaches will bring a handful of their players to North Carolina to provide quotes for members of the league’s basketball media in order to finish up their almost-finished season previews and features that have been saved in draft form for a week or so by now. Well, all coaches except for Rick Pitino, who we were told today wouldn’t be in Charlotte via press release because the NCAA wouldn’t allow him to comment on the open investigation into the scandal that everyone already knows about.
Here’s the thing … those stories are still going to be written. You’re not going to stop the media from covering this story, or any story for that matter. Give them a quote, let them write it and move on, even if that quote is “I’m sorry, the NCAA won’t allow me to discuss open investigations.” That ends it right there. That’s the extent of the discomfort Rick Pitino will feel at ACC media day. But he’s choosing not to come, or Louisville is choosing not to send him. I can assure you that the incredible media that covers this conference won’t fill that space with stories about how Louisville has to replace really good players this year, even though this is a very basketball-savvy crowd who does care greatly about the actual basketball that’s played in this league. The new story will be “Rick Pitino skipped ACC media day” or “Will Rick Pitino be Louisville’s head coach”, and that doesn’t sound like something very comfortable to me to have to talk about down the road.
It certainly isn’t going to be comfortable for the three players being sent to represent Louisville who will undoubtedly be asked questions that should be directed towards Pitino. Sportswriters aren’t bad people, but they ask the questions they’re supposed to ask, and if the coach isn’t there then they’ll certainly try to get quotes from the players. That’s not happening if Pitino is there to absorb the heat, or any adult from Louisville whether it’s an assistant or Tom Jurich himself. For players, media day is supposed to be a time to go answer questions about what’s on their pre-game playlist and who the best dancer is in the locker room after a big win.
How does Louisville not know how to play this? You’re going to read hot take after hot take about leadership and example-setting, and none of them will be wrong. But for us, how do you get to be where Louisville is and not know how to insulate your players and your programs from the abuse that they’re about to take? Roy Williams hasn’t like it one daggum bit but he’s delivered the “guys, I cannot talk about this” line about a thousand times over the past few years. Mike Krzyzewski went in depth to explain why, legally, he wasn’t allowed to comment on Rasheed Sulaimon last season (although Duke did respond via statement to the allegation that Coach K was aware of a threesome involving Gucci Mane, Keyshia, and a white girl). That’s a guy who KNOWS what it’s like to be in the crosshairs of every national journo looking for the come-up. Jim Boeheim … okay yeah he’s kind of a coward too.
But seriously, Rick, just go and give your quotes. You make a lot of money to do things like that. And when you’re going to be dealing with the national media who sees you a meal ticket, the ACC basketball media is a nice friend to have on your side. Just like Gucci said, ask Coach K.