Rick Pitino was officially fired as Louisville’s men’s basketball coach on Monday, as an FBI investigation into a bribery scandal has rocked the university.
In the FBI’s complaint, disclosed last month, the Adidas executive Jim Gatto and other defendants are accused of funneling $100,000 to the family of a high-school basketball player to persuade him to commit to Louisville.
ESPN reported on Monday that Pitino said in an affidavit that he “had no part – active, passive, or through willful ignorance – in the conspiracy described in the complaint.”
Documents from Pitino’s attorney, however, show that the coach and Gatto were in touch. Pitino says they never discussed improperly paying a player to come to Louisville, which would violate NCAA rules.
In the documents, obtained by Spectrum Sports reporter Lyndsey Gough, Gatto and Pitino apparently discuss the former Louisville player Terry Rozier via text message. Pitino also asks whether Gatto can get him a pair of sneakers from Kanye West’s sneaker brand Yeezy, which both men misspell.
“Thx Jim -excited about this team -can u give me those white with black stripes Yeesys,” Pitino texted Gatto, the documents show.
“Working on that color of Yezzy’s,” Gatto responded. “There is a newer all white pair as well that might be easier for me to get.”
Here’s Pitino’s texts with Adidas exec Jim Gatto. He spelled Yeezys wrong. Mentions Rozier as he previously claimed pic.twitter.com/Fr7EVJybWb
— Lyndsey Gough (@LGonTV) October 16, 2017
By themselves, texts about Yeezy sneakers and a coach taking interest in a former player’s potential contract with Adidas would not be grounds for terminating a coach’s contract. Pitino’s attorney is likely to use these texts to argue that while Pitino was in touch with Gatto, Pitino was unaware of any bribery.
However, Louisville’s relationship with Adidas is presenting a major problem for the university.
The FBI complaint said that at least two coaches at the university seemed aware of plans to bribe the player. An undercover agent described one of the defendants – Jonathan Brad Augustine, the program director of an Adidas-sponsored teen basketball program – as saying he expected Adidas to fund future bribes to the student in part because of the company’s relationship with a coach at the school.
“No one swings a bigger d— than [Coach-2]” at Adidas, the agent described Augustine as saying. The complaint did not identify the coach, though it has been assumed to be Pitino.
The FBI complaint said a phone number associated with the coach called Gatto three times in the days before the high-school player committed to Louisville.