Recently fired Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino is suing Adidas in an apparent attempt to clear his name after a bribery scandal hit the school.
Pitino was officially fired as Louisville’s men’s basketball coach on Monday, after an FBI investigation into alleged bribery rocked the university.
On Tuesday, Pitino filed a complaint against Adidas and Adidas North America, claiming that the sportswear company’s alleged bribery scheme had brought down an innocent man.
The complaint states that Pitino had “no part — active, passive, or through willful ignorance” in the bribery described in the FBI’s complaint. 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.
“Adidas’ outrageous and unlawful actions, and the public disclosure of those actions, have resulted in grave damage to Coach Pitino’s public and private standing and reputation, causing him extreme embarrassment, humiliation, and emotional distress,” the complaint reads.
Pitino hopes to clear his name by winning the case.
“This lawsuit is about more than just money; it is Coach Pitino’s vehicle for proving that he had nothing to do with Adidas’ outrageous, wrongful, and illegal conspiracy,” the complaint reads.
“Mr. Pitino’s lawsuit is clearly a reaction to his termination yesterday and is without merit,” an Adidas spokesperson shot back in a statement to Business Insider.
Though the complaint states that his claims against Adidas in this case are “entirely independent” from any claims and damages related to his employment, Pitino also has financial incentive to clear his name.
Pitino’s contract with Louisville states that if the coach were to be let go without just cause, the university would still owe him $44 million. However, if fired with just cause — as Louisville’s Athletic Association unanimously voted to do on Monday — Louisville would not have to pay Pitino the remaining $44 million on his contract.
The FBI complaint said that at least two coaches at the university seemed aware of plans to bribe a Louisville basketball player. In fact, 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 Pitino’s complaint says that he believes he is “Coach 2.”
The FBI complaint said that a phone number associated with the coach called Gatto three times in the days before the high-school player committed to Louisville. Pitino has maintained that he and Gatto knew each other, but did not discuss improperly paying a player to play at the university, instead texting about issues such as Kanye West’s sneaker line.