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Pitino Story Dominates the Weekend

April 20th, 2009 by admin · 17 Comments

There was something in the air on Friday, and it had nothing to do with airplanes or fireworks. There was something up with Louisville’s biggest celebrity.

We got a call suggesting an absurd story — Rick Pitino was the subject of an extortion threat from the estranged wife of his equipment manager. This was the culmination of a long-brewing story, one that Pitino had reported to the FBI weeks ago. But what propelled it into the mainstream media Saturday was the woman’s own doing.

On Saturday, Pitino issued a pre-emptive strike. Once he learned Sypher was shopping the story, he put out a statement saying he was the target of an extortion attempt.

She had taped an interview with Fox41 and called around to other stations. Fox41 decided it wouldn’t air its interview. Still, it was the only station with video footage of Karen Sypher, and on the air Sunday Bennett Haeberle made clear to viewers that the station was leading the way on coverage. It used the footage in B-roll for its reporting of the issue.

Other media picked up a photo of Sypher from last year’s Derby.

We’re going on rumor here, but Sypher claims to have something damaging to Pitino. You can imagine what that is. She needed some money and went to Pitino, threatening to make it a media story if the well-paid coach didn’t fork over some cash. Pitino didn’t, and Sypher started calling the media.

The station, or anyone else, is not making her claims public. There’s no public records of any charges. They can’t be substantiated, and no one wants to give some crazy woman a chance to make good on her threats to extort money from the coach. Everyone in town’s heard rumors about the Rick’s private life, but no one is going to air anything without substantial proof.

Fox41 and others who have heard them aren’t allowing Sypher the media launching pad that she wants. Interestingly, she didn’t call the C-J. Apparently Sypher just wants to be on TV.

Her attorney, Thomas Clay, first tried the tactic of telling WHAS-TV that he represented the woman, unnamed in Pitino’s statement, making the charges. But then the station told him they already had her I.D.’d, and he didn’t deny it was her. And in a round of Sunday interviews said he expects his client, whom he’s representing in her divorce case, could be charged with a crime.

By Sunday, an embarrassed Tim Sypher put out a statement, expressing well-placed concern about their daughter and four stepsons. It must be a nasty divorce case.

The story has exploded, of course, in the media, making it to national outlets. At the C-J, comments are being deleted due to vulgarity and the nature of the personal attacks. The paper’s front page, devoted mainly to celebrating Thunder, gave top billing to Pitino.

For Pitino, it may just be the price of fame. Celebrities must deal with all sorts of hangers-on and nutjobs. Karen Cypher got the idea that she could get some of Pitino’s money by threatening to go to the media. Wisely, he didn’t go for it.

Tags: Bad Behavior · Celebrity · Sports · University of Louisville

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Carter Burger // Apr 20, 2009 at 8:09 am

    “Fox41 and others who have heard them aren’t allowing Sypher the media launching pad that she wants.”

    They have already given it to her. The media in this town is so stupid. If they didn’t want to give this story any attention, why get on the air and say “we have it, but we are not going to tell you”? If they really wanted to cut her off at the knees, they should have sat on the story until charges are filed….but they just couldn’t help it, they had to say something.

    Of course Fox 41 claims to be THE source for the story, yet they are not giving any more information than the other stations have. If they want to be THE source, air the interview. The story has broke, what else is there?

    The classic example of how NOT to handle a story like this, our local TV stations have done it.

  • 2 cindylamb // Apr 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

    All players out of bounds.

  • 3 Comstock // Apr 20, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Wait, the media is at fault because Pitino issued a statement to the media?

    And you know you like the drama.

  • 4 Mark // Apr 20, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Is it just me, or does Karen Sypher look a whole hell of a lot like Jennifer Flowers with smaller hair.

    I have no idea what happened (if anything) but her attorney certainly doesn’t appear to be putting up much of a fight in her defense.

  • 5 Carter Burger // Apr 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    And as someone else has said, once you go to the media with the story, the chances of you getting any money from your target diminishes rapidly. She’s not very smart, either. Guess she didn’t count on the local media covering up for Pitino.

  • 6 Steve // Apr 20, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    “Not very smart” is the understatement of the year. I suspect that Ms. Sypher regrets what she’s said and done — and, very shortly, she’s going to regret it even more.

    I think we can all agree that Rick Pitino has been — and continues to be — a colossal asset to our community, most notably as a gifted coach and as a philanthropist. He’s worked hard to raise a lot of money for an array of charities.

    We’re lucky to have him, and we can show our support by suspending judgment on the many rumors this story is amplifying. We’ve heard them all for years.

    His personal life is his business, not ours. Even a vortex public figure as recognized as Rick Pitino deserves some privacy.

    Kudos to the local news media for protecting his privacy and for enforcing the appropriate boundary between his conduct as a coach and unrelated, irrelevant conduct in his personal life.

    Tongue-waggers would be well served to consider what their scurrilous gossip says about them.

  • 7 Henry Watterson // Apr 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Rick, where were you and Jake all weekend on this? The supposed “mainstream media” cleaned your clock on this big story. I expected at least one post over the weekend. Why weren’t you guys out shaking down your sources on this? It’s national news. You do have “sources,” don’t you? You know — people who tell you stuff before it’s in the C-J or Hebert’s blog. Everyone was talking about this scandal yesterday. Except here.

    (insert sound of crickets chirping)

  • 8 Henry Watterson // Apr 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for telling us everything we already know. The C-J, Fox-41 and ESPN were all over this story on Saturday and Sunday. You know — the mainstream media. Where were you and Jake?

  • 9 Reader // Apr 20, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    First off, I do read this site daily and refresh it often during the work hours. With that said, I was a little disapointed when there was nothing posted this weekend. Yes, you do get your weekends, but I do know you do have readers that check it for “behind the details” look at stories that develop from time to time.

    Keep us updated Rick/Jake…….

  • 10 syvyn11 // Apr 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    scandal 101- the cover up is always worse than the alleged crime.

    Congrats to Coach for not caving in.

  • 11 jake // Apr 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    How about… we were both out enjoying ourselves? I spent 24 hours enjoying Thunder and the surrounding festivities and left the MacBook Pro turned off. Rick spent the weekend, like always, with his kids.

    Yeah, our clock was so cleaned. How terrible that we didn’t write about this as it was happening. Totally kills us forever, the end.

    By the way – I think it’s time we point out that “Henry Watterson” is an employee of the Courier-Journal. This is from a comment earlier today:

    Author : Henry Watterson (IP: 64.8.46.4 , 64.8.46.4)
    E-mail : henry.watterson@yahoo.com
    URL :
    Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=64.8.46.4

    When you click that Whois link? Here’s what you learn:

    Level 3 Communications, Inc. LVLT-ORG-64-8 (NET-64-8-0-0-1)
    64.8.0.0 – 64.8.95.255
    The Courier Journal TELCOVE-LSVL-COURIER (NET-64-8-46-0-1)
    64.8.46.0 – 64.8.46.255

    Interesting, isn’t it? The individual who spends their entire life trashing us, losing their shit when we moderate their ignorant comments… is a C-J employee.

    SO beautiful.

    Who could it be? We encourage you, readers, to check all of their old comments and give us your thoughts.

    And no, we don’t out people just because they disagree with us. We out people who push bullshit attacks 24/7 and spend their entire lives emailing us to complain about having their attack comments moderated.

  • 12 Carter Burger // Apr 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    What irritates me more about this is the self-aggrandizing that ALL the local TV stations engage in. None of them have told us really anything about this story, yet they all like to brag that they had it first. Fox 41 has gone so far as to position themselves as THE source for the story, and they haven’t told us shit. They didn’t want to air the interview because they could not “validate the claims”. When has that ever stopped anyone in the media before?

    This is so stupid. I don’t care what they did. What irritates me more is our local media telling us they know what they did and they refuse to tell us because they suddenly have gotten morals.

    Just when I thought it was safe to watch the local media again. They all suck.

  • 13 Steve Magruder (I, not D or R) // Apr 20, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said often before.

    If you’re going to keep attacking people, at least have the decency to reveal your real name. Why? Because it’s unfair for those who do use their real names, and have reputations, to have to defend their positions against an anonymous coward.

  • 14 Steve Magruder (I, not D or R) // Apr 20, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    As for the story at hand, if all that exists are salacious details, it’s best we don’t know them (in other words, who cares!?). On the other hand, if this is about, let’s say, official corruption, then the story needs to come out.

  • 15 Mark // Apr 21, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I agree with you Carter, but I have a feeling that the threat of litigation and access to the U of L program has more to do with the media holding back the details, than a change in their morals.

    If I were Pitino, I would let these stations know directly or indirectly that it would be in their best legal interest not to spread potentially slanderous allegations without supporting evidence. My guess is that the legal departments of the television stations are making sure the stations have their facts straight before going out half-cocked, only to be embarrassed later. Hopefully the Chuck Hayes rape allegation fiasco taught them a lesson.

  • 16 Carter Burger // Apr 21, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I understand your point, Mark. My point is, if that’s the case, the stations should have sat on the story until they could report all the facts. All Fox 41 is doing now is adding fuel to the fire of speculation. They, or any other station isn’t doing anything to advance the story. To me they all look stupid because they want to report the story, but they don’t want to risk upsetting the University. They are all playing it safe.

    I guess Ms Sypher didn’t anticipate all the local media sandbagging this story to help protect Pitino.

  • 17 Charles // Apr 21, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Mark, You’re correct about the TV stations wanting to avoid litigation, and all of their news departments should be using good judgement before reporting facts that may, or may not, be true. Then there is your point about whether or not the details warrant coverage at all. Pitino doesn’t need to do anything more on that point. He is handling it properly at this time.

    Regarding access to the U of L program: I doubt that is a factor to any of the stations. Those types of issues tend to be manageable over time.

    Carter, Please don’t paint all of the stations with such a broad brush. Not all of them are using this story as a promotional platform. I agree with you that there has been marginal differences in the coverage approach at each station, but as far as sensationalizing it for their own gain…not all.

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