The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Wednesday a sex scandal involving a woman accused of trying to extort millions from him has been "pure hell" for his family, fuming that newly released video of her police interview revived her "total fabrication."
Pitino spoke at a hastily called news conference hours 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. Pitino has told police that he had sex with her six years ago.
Sypher claims in the interview 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.
The coach lashed out at the media for again reporting on her accusations by airing clips of the interviews Wednesday. Prosecutors did not pursue charges against the coach.
"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, who's a Roman Catholic, said the scandal has taken a heavy toll on his wife and family.
"It has been pure hell for her and my family," he said.
"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 stay mum and let the case go to trial when he says "the truth will come out." Pitino didn't discuss details of the case at the news conference and said his lawyer had advised him not to speak out at all.
Instead, he opted to come forward after local television aired portions of Sypher's interview.
"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 has kept a low profile since his apology, focusing on preparing the Cardinals for the 2009-10 season. He was involved in individual workouts on Wednesday, and updates on the Twitter pages of several players indicated nothing except another series of grueling drills.
As his news conference was carried live on television in Louisville, at least one station split the screen with Pitino talking the left, and the police video of Sypher on the right.
The video released under the Kentucky Open Records Act shows Sypher sitting across a table from Louisville Police Sgt. Andy Abbott. A full transcript of the interview was released by police earlier this month.
Sypher wasn't accompanied by a lawyer at the time of the videotaped interview. An attorney who was later appointed to represent her, James Earhart, said before Pitino's remarks that the release of the police video has no bearing on the federal case.
Included in the release of audio and video by police were a series of telephone messages left for Sypher by Pitino. Most of the calls are brief, with him leaving his name and asking for a call back.
In one message, though, Pitino alludes to the "very unfortunate situation."
"It's not something I can decide on," he says on the message. "I think the best thing in all scenarios is to go through with it. But, that has to be your call because (inaudible) … I'm a high profile person … I can't really give you any advice on this…"
It's not clear from the recording, parts of which are inaudible, what decision he's referring to. Sgt. Robert Biven said the recordings were provided to police by Sypher.
In an interview with police that was not taped but was summarized in a police report, Pitino said the encounter with Sypher was consensual. Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said Pitino's interview wasn't taped because his attorney accompanied him to the interview.
Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson to order a psychological exam for Sypher, saying she may not be competent to understand the proceedings against her or assist in her own defense in the extortion case. Sypher's attorney had not responded to that request as of Wednesday.
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.
Associated Press Writer Brett Barrouquere in Louisville contributed to this report.