The litany of failures on and off the court for Richard Pitino as the Gophers men’s basketball coach has been repeated since his program was ripped publicly by university president Eric Kaler last Wednesday.
There has been one item grossly underplayed in the Twin Cities media, ever since it was whitewashed by the university:
Minnesota’s basketball delegation choosing to use a travel agency called Promosport for a $224,245 trip to Spain last August. Promosport is run by the same people who operate Canarias Basketball Academy on Gran Canaria, the second largest of the Canary Islands.
Two months ago, Luke Winn and Michael McCann did a masterful report on the connection between Division I colleges booking expensive travel through Promosport and also landing recruits from Canarias Academy.
Pitino’s father Rick and Louisville had been involved in the Promosport/academy connection during a six-month period in 2013-14. Louisville signed 7-foot center Matz Stockman from the academy in November 2013, and then signed a $167,850 contract with Promosport in April 2014 for a trip to Spain.
Surprise! Richard Pitino was desperate for big men to add to his 2014-15 recruiting class after his first Minnesota season. He signed 6-11 Bakary Konate and 6-10 Gaston Diedhou, both of whom had a connection to the Promosport/basketball operators, in the spring of 2014. Then, on Oct. 14, 2014, Athletic Director Norwood Teague signed a contract with Promosport for last summer’s trip to Spain.
[The copy in the print edition of Sunday's Star Tribune stated that Konate and Diedhou both attended Canarias Basketball Academy. This was an error made by me..
[Konate did not attend that academy. Konate's connection as outlined in the SI.com report was that he played for the junior team at CB Gran Canarias, for which Rob Orellana was the main recruiter. Orellana runs the Canarias Academy and shares a business address with Promosport. An Orellana assistant coach also was listed as being in charge of Promosport.]
Teague was home being fired for sexual harassment last August, while Pitino was leading a group of 35 on the trip through Spain.
The trip was paid for by boosters. The issue is the Gophers using Promosport after getting players with connections to the operators of the travel agency.
Beth Goetz, the interim AD, said when the SI.com report came out she was “comfortable there was no quid pro quo’’ in signing Konate and Diedhou. That was the end of it for the university.
Go ahead, commenters: Make jokes about the Gophers not getting their money’s worth with Konate and Diedhou.
It doesn’t alter the fact Pitino’s willingness to wallow in the Promosport/Canarias Academy muck stunk when revealed by SI.com in March, and it still stinks.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Predictions on what will befall the Twins at end of an already-horrific 2016:
*Terry Ryan will announce in September that he is retiring after the season.
*Twins ownership will throw numerous millions at Jed Hoyer to leave Theo Epstein’s shadow with the Cubs.
*Hoyer will blow up the baseball operation, including the on-field staff. Next manager: Torey Lovullo.