Text messages show Rick Pitino's involvement in recruiting Brian Bowen
Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino connected an assistant coach with a former AAU program director and sports agent to help secure a commitment from five-star recruit Brian Bowen, according to copies of text message conversations.
Attorney Steve Pence, who is representing Pitino, said the coach did not know and could not have known about the alleged "pay to play" scheme and did not know Christian Dawkins was an agent.
As evidence, he provided reporters with copies of text messages between the agent and former AAU team director Dawkins and Adidas executive James Gatto, both of whom were arrested as part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting.
Pitino was fired Monday by the university's athletics board after a unanimous vote.
In copies of text messages provided by Pence, Dawkins asked Pitino on May 23 if he would be interested in recruiting Bowen. Dawkins mentions Pitino would know him through recruiting former Louisville player Jaylen Johnson, who played for Dawkins' Dorian's Pride AAU team.
"Coach- this is Christian Dawkins. I dealt with you on Jaylen Johnson. Would you have interest in Brian Bowen..," Dawkins' text read.
Pitino responded, "We would love to have him," and sent along contact information for Louisville associate head coach Kenny Johnson, who has since been put on paid administrative leave.
Pitino, in a sworn affidavit provided by Pence and presented to the board Monday, said he only knew Dawkins through his AAU program.
".. Dawkins was not an 'agent,' even under the NCAA's broad definition, and was no longer employed by the sports management company at the time of his campus visit," Pence wrote in the letter delivered Monday. "Dawkins had been associated with an AAU team. Coach Pitino knew Dawkins only in that capacity, not as an agent."
Dawkins, who was fired in May from a job as an agent with ASM Sports, was founding a sports management company with co-defendant and investment adviser Munish Sood, and part of the attempted bribe to Bowen's family would have been to ensure the player signed with Dawkins and Sood once he turned pro, according to the FBI complaint.
In other messages provided by Pence, Gatto and Pitino discussed on Aug. 1 and 2 the apparel company's deal with former Louisville player and current Boston Celtics point guard Terry Rozier. The messages also show Pitino later asked Gatto to contact "Jordan." It is not clear if Pitino is referring to since-fired Louisville assistant coach Jordan Fair.
In a Sept. 28 text message reportedly from Bowen's mother, Carrie Ann Malecke, sent two days after the FBI investigation was made public, she mentioned that Pitino and Bowen had a close relationship and had no regrets over her son's decision to play for Louisville.
"As a mother all of my focus is on my child and nothing else matters to me," the text read. "I was totally blindsided by all of this and out of the loop due to my #1 focus! Please know that I wouldn't change where my son picked to go to school and with his choice, I trust his judgment and still do! ... You have been like a father figure to him and he has nothing but positive things to say about you and I as a mother, that is my prayers being answered!!"
Reach Reporter Thomas Novelly at 502-216-1249 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @TomNovelly.