Thursday edition/TFD: Rocket breaks down Rick Pitino’s legal situation

Posted on August 13th, 2009 – 3:37 PM
By Michael Rand

Sorry, all, but we were “stuck” on the course for more than five hours with Tiger Woods today. He was, as the kids say, on fire. But it was beastly hot and we’re just now starting to crank things out for the newspaper. So, we leave you with our one and only post of the day: Rocket’s examination of the Rick Pitino situation. Please do enjoy:


I have a special relationship with lawyers. It’s not the same relationship that Joker has, what with the paternity suits and the restraining orders. Nor is it like Stu’s purely fictional relationship with lawyers, in which he often pretends to be admitted to the bar in various St. Could college taverns in the hopes that his homemade, mimeographed (and highly illegal) “subpoenas” for the unmentionables of underage co-eds will be honored.

Nonetheless, I understand lawyers in a way that your average citizen does not. I know how they think and I know what motivates them. This is not to say that I am incapable of recognizing why the Juris Doctorially-deficient claim to hate attorneys. I do understand the vitriol produced by lawyers all too well. But I also understand why members of the bar continue to behave in ways that confounds your everyday peon, and why they will continue to do so.

All of which makes this Rick Pitino business all the more interesting. When I found out that Pitino’s lawyer claimed that he paid his one-time paramour $3,000 not for an abortion, but rather for “medical coverage,” I knowingly grinned and I realized that Pitino was spending his retainer wisely. This lawyer, Steve Pence, esquire, is one magnificent [redacted]. Anybody who regularly watches sports and has a reasonable set of logical and deductive skills has to know that the ceiling for Pitino remaining at Louisville is, at its absolute highest, two-and-a-half years. More likely, however, the school will look to get rid of him and seek to do so through the morality clauses in his contract.

Pitino’s lawyer, knowing full well that his client will not remain with his employer for much longer, is already counterpunching by trying to establish that his client was not doing something distasteful, like paying for an abortion, but doing something admirable, like paying for medical coverage. The lawyer is doing this for two reasons: First, to
plant the seed of respectability in a potential jury pool for the potential civil suit against the school. It’s far-fetched, but hardly completely implausible in a basketball crazy state that loves the coach.

Second and most importantly, he is making it clear to the school that they will be ready to fight for whatever remains of Pitino’s contract. Thus, the school has to decide whether it will try to fire Pitino with no compensation because of the morality clauses in he contract, or if it will give him a huge chunk of change to go away quietly. Although most non-lawyers might believe that the school should go with the first option because they seemingly are able to do so and it would be “the
right thing to do,” I can assure you they won’t. The expense that it would take to litigate it (and Pitino’s lawyer is sending the signals that they will fight it all the way), coupled with the possibility, remote as it is, that they would lose the case in a basketball-crazy state that loves the coach and the headache that would arise from years of litigation probably makes it more cost effective to give Pitino (and his lawyer) a bunch of money to slink away into the shadows.

Rest assured, Pitino and his lawyer don’t actually want to litigate this case. But the genius of the seemingly impossibly stupid “medical coverage” comment is that it is now less likely that they will have to litigate. The school has been sent a clear message, and it is more likely than not that it wants to go to court even less than Pitino. Steve Pence, I salute you.

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