Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said Wednesday a sex scandal involving a woman accused of trying to blackmail him for millions of dollars has been “pure hell” for his family. He’s also calling a newly released video of her police interview a “total fabrication.”
Pitino spoke at a news conference Wednesday after Louisville police released audio and video recordings of phone calls and an interview with Karen Cunagin Sypher, the woman at the heart of the scandal.
Sypher claims on the police tape that Pitino sexually assaulted her, an allegation she brought to police after she was accused of trying to extort millions from the coach. She has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of extortion and lying to the FBI.
Pitino has admitted to police that he had sex with her six years ago, but claims it was consensual.
“Everything that’s been printed, everything that’s been reported, everything that’s been breaking in the news on the day Ted Kennedy died is 100 percent a lie, a lie,” Pitino said. “All of this has been a lie, a total fabrication of the truth.”
The 56-year-old married father of five said of the scandal: “It has been pure hell for her and my family.”
“I admitted to you I made a mistake, and believe me I will suffer for that mistake,” he added.
Pitino’s remarks were his first public statements since a five-minute apology two weeks ago for an “indiscretion” with Sypher at a Louisville restaurant in 2003. Sypher later told Pitino she was pregnant, planned to have an abortion but did not have medical insurance. He told police he gave her $3,000, money his attorney Steve Pence said was for insurance, not an abortion.
Pitino had planned to keep quiet and let the case go to trial when he says “the truth will come out.” Instead, he opted to come forward after local television newscasts aired snippets of Sypher’s interview with police.
“Enough’s enough, everybody is tired of it,” Pitino said. “We need to get on with the important things in life like the economy and really some crucial things in life like basketball.”
Pitino said Louisville would continue to be a Top 10 program despite the scandal.
“It has not hurt recruiting one bit. We will still bring in Top 10 players,” he said.
Pitino finished his eighth season with the Cardinals, leading them to a 31-6 record and the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. The Cardinals lost to Michigan State in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.