Louisville recruits not shaken by issues
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rick Pitino is not losing recruits as a result of his "indiscretion" -- not yet anyway.
Players who have signed with Louisville, and at least one who has verbally committed to the Cardinals, remain supportive of Pitino in the wake of his admitted affair with a woman of accused of trying to extort $10 million from him. However, it may take several years before the scandal has an impact on the product the coach puts on the floor.
That doesn't concern high school standout Michael Chandler.
The profile picture on his Facebook page Thursday left no doubt about the junior center's verbal commitment to join the Cardinals in 2011.
The picture shows the 6-foot-10 Lawrence North High (Indianapolis) star leaning back in a chair. A smiling Pitino is on his right.
"Yeah my commitment is very strong with Louisville. Nothing will change unless Pitino leaves," Chandler wrote in a Facebook message. "But my commitment is very strong."
Chandler isn't the only one sticking up for Pitino. Louisville president James Ramsey reaffirmed his support for the coach when he called Pitino "our guy" while leaving a luncheon for the university's football team.
"We'll come out of this a stronger university and a stronger community," Ramsey said.
That belief is apparently shared by the players who have already signed with the Cardinals.
All four incoming freshmen -- guards Peyton Siva and Mike Marra, forwards Stephan Van Treese and Rakeem Buckles -- spent a portion of the summer taking courses on campus and are expected to be in class when the fall semester begins on Aug. 24.
Siva, who could compete for a starting job next season, seemed unfazed by Pitino's personal troubles in a post on his Twitter account:
"Yo I ain't leaving. 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.'"
While no one is jumping ship now, when Pitino and members of his staff hit the recruiting trail in the fall, they'll likely have to address the scandal. It remains to be seen how it resonates with potential players and their families will be difficult to predict.
"Some people will see things from a purely basketball standpoint," said Dave Telep, national recruiting director for Scout.com. "Others may see it in a broader scope. I anticipate he's already developed a way he's going to handle it with recruits."
Pitino began laying the foundation for some of those future conversations during his public apology on Wednesday.
Twice during his five-minute mea culpa he mentioned "recruits" and after a summer spent dealing with rumors that he was planning his exit, Pitino made perhaps the strongest statement yet on his intentions to coach at Louisville until he retires.
"So long as they will have me, for as long as they'll have me, I will coach here," he said. "I'm not a spring chicken, but I'm certainly not over the hill. And I intend on recruiting the best athletes, the best people to this program."
The incoming class was ranked 21st-best in the country by Scout.com, with rival Kentucky taking the No. 1 spot following John Calipari's hire in April.
Calipari's arrival certainly escalated the recruiting battles between the two schools, a battle the Cardinals have been winning in recent years. While Kentucky has faded under Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie, the Cardinals have surged.
But the road ahead could get tougher.
Pitino lost the centerpiece of his 2010 recruiting class before the police reports were made public. Jeremy Tyler announced in April he would skip his senior year at San Diego High and play in Europe. On Wednesday, he signed a one-year, $140,000 contract with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Premier League.
Pitino's son Richard, an assistant with the Cardinals the last two years and a top recruiter, left Louisville to join Billy Donovan at Florida. It's a move that Pitino admitted was difficult for father and son, and one he knows could affect Louisville's pursuit of the nation's top players.
"He did an incredible job with recruiting, he was the best young recruiter I've worked since I've been in this game," Pitino said. "Billy should be excited to have him. I'm going to miss him tremendously."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press