LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – The Matt Bevin-Rick Pitino feud is getting ugly. Or make that uglier.
Apparently motivated by Pitino’s criticism of him in his new book and in media interviews, Kentucky’s governor struck back Wednesday, saying it is sad to watch the former University of Louisville basketball coach blame others for his problems.
In Pitino’s new book, which was published Tuesday, he refers to Bevin as a “religious zealot” and says the governor has a “putitanical streak.”
Pitino claims he was fired as part of the fallout from Bevin’s effort to control U of L athletics director Tom Jurich. Pitino charges that Bevin was upset with Jurich over U of L’s financial renegotiations with the city and state for the KFC Yum! Center.
Pitino said Bevin’s opposition to the revised lease agreement “apparently hurt the governor,” adding that, “In the end, the governor has the purse strings that control the university, so Tom had to give in and give $2 to $3 million more back to the state, which he didn’t want to do.”
On 84 WHAS radio Wednesday in his first public comments on the book, Bevin said:
“It’s pretty sad, it really is. He was a great coach and his life is devolving into this. It’s sad.”
Bevin, who was interviewed on the Leland Conway Show, said the Hall of Fame coach is trying to avoid accountability for his mistakes by playing the blame game.
“Now he just sounds like a desperate, angry, bitter person who wants to lay blame everywhere but at his own feet, which is where, frankly, so much of it belongs,” Bevin said.
In the book, Pitino relies heavily on secondhand conversations for his accounts of the governor’s actions. He wrote that in early 2016 an unnamed personal friend and former Louisville athlete with a “strong connection to Bevin’s inner circle” told him about a conversation with one of the governor’s mutual friends.
“Bevin’s buddy made it clear: Tom was in the crosshairs,” Pitino says in his book. “I believe Tom’s successful dealmaking ruffled too many feathers.”
A few months later, Bevin ousted U of L’s board of trustees, citing the group’s dysfunction and installed a new board that included current chairman David Grissom and John Schnatter, who has since resigned. Pitino has also blamed those two for his firing.
Conway did not ask Bevin whether he was motivated to replace the U of L board as part of a strategy to either get a better deal on the Yum! Center or to fire Jurich.
In the book, Pitino claimed that Jurich was a source of ire for state leaders when the city, state and university were renegotiating how to pay for the downtown arena’s construction bonds. UofL eventually agreed to pay an additional $2.4 million toward the debt, a deal Jurich resisted.