Pitino says he let down his family

Updated: August 13, 2009, 2:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Saying he will coach at Louisville "as long as they'll have me," Rick Pitino apologized Wednesday for "an indiscretion" he committed six years ago.

In a news conference at the university, Pitino did not directly address the report that he admitted to police he had consensual sex with the woman who later was charged with trying to extort him. He also did not address the summary of a police statement that said he had given the woman $3,000 after she said she needed an abortion but didn't have health insurance.

But he did say that "the past seven months have been very difficult on the people I love."

The Courier-Journal of Louisville, citing police records, reported Tuesday that Pitino made those admissions.

Pitino did not take questions Wednesday.

He said he did admit to his family and to the university what he did, and that he tried to handle the problem the same way he advises players to handle adversity.

"When you have a problem, if you tell the truth, the problem becomes part of your past," he said. "If you lie, it becomes part of your future."

Pitino said that he had not commented on the charges against Karen Cunagin Sypher, which include trying to extort $10 million from the coach and lying to the FBI.

"A grand jury indictment is a very serious thing and that's why I haven't commented on that," he said.

At one point in the short, seemingly off-the-cuff statement, Pitino said he went to Louisville "at a very difficult time." He spoke of 9/11 and the university's need for healing.

"You needed a community to get over it," he said, and concluded that the university and his family have helped him get over this trouble.

As for his wife and five children, Pitino said: "I let them down with my indiscretion six years ago. And I'm sorry for that and I tell them that every day."

He also apologized to his "extended family:" the university community, fans and even the media.

The statement came after Pitino's lawyer disputed part of the Courier-Journal report.

Citing police records, the newspaper reported that Pitino had sex with Cunagin Sypher in a restaurant after closing time and that two weeks later she called to tell him she was pregnant.

Pitino then gave Cunagin 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. The coach's attorney, Steve Pence, said Wednesday that the money was to help her get medical coverage, not specifically to pay for an abortion.

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

Louisville Metro Police public information officer Dwight Mitchell told ESPN's Kelly Naqi earlier Wednesday that the sergeant who questioned Pitino understood that Pitino was talking about health insurance, not an abortion. After that was established, Sgt. Andy Abbott left out that line of questioning because it had nothing to do with the criminal allegation of rape.

"It was Sgt. Abbott's understanding that the money [Pitino gave Cunagin Sypher] was for health insurance," Mitchell said.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich -- to whom Pitino also apologized -- said in a statement: "Coach Pitino has been truthful with us about this matter all along and we stand by him and his family during this process."

On Wednesday, Jurich told ESPN.com he is "1 million percent behind Coach Pitino."

Louisville president Dr. James Ramsey also issued a statement, voicing his support of Pitino and asking the community to move on.

"Rick Pitino is the University of Louisville's basketball coach," the statement read. "He has been a role model for countless young people and a positive influence on this community.

"Regardless of the truth or falsehood of specific actions that have been attributed to the coach, he's clearly made errors in judgment that have come under intense public scrutiny. We can't ignore these errors in judgment, and they have saddened and disappointed me. As we try to teach our students, when you make a mistake, you admit it and right it as best you can. Coach has done that today."

Cunagin Sypher's attorney, James Earhart, said Wednesday that although some details have surfaced, he expects the rest to come out eventually.

He said Cunagin Sypher and her family "have suffered a lot, and they continue to suffer every day as a result of this."

At least one incoming recruit seemed unfazed by Pitino's latest setback.

"Yo I ain't leaving," incoming freshman Peyton Siva posted on his Twitter account. "Rick['s] personal life is his life. He's here to coach me and is the best teach of hoop to me! So like the fans say, 'Go Cards.'"

Not everyone was so supportive.

Dwight Lacy, a Louisville native and a broadcast journalism major at the University of Kentucky, said he's not sure if Pitino can survive the latest setback to his reputation.

"What are we going to do now?" he said. "I could understand if he got fired. I don't want him to get fired because he is a good coach, but he got involved in some not-so-honorable actions. You have to compare your love of the game with the love of your morals."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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