In case you missed it, the University of Louisville and head basketball coach Rick Pitino are locked in an extreme controversy - A graduate assistant (member of the coaching staff) has been accused of bringing strippers into the dorms at U of L during recruiting visits and paying the dancers to have sex with recruits. Tim Sackett wrote about this earlier this week.
Here's a taste of the allegations for those of you that haven't seen it - From ESPN:
“Five former University of Louisville basketball players and recruits told Outside the Lines that they attended parties at a campus dorm from 2010 to 2014 that included strippers paid for by the team’s former graduate assistant coach, Andre McGee.
One of the former players said he had sex with a dancer after McGee paid her. Each of the players and recruits attended different parties at Billy Minardi Hall, where dancers, many of whom stripped naked, were present. Three of the five players said they attended parties as recruits and also when they played for Louisville.
Said one of the recruits, who ultimately signed to play elsewhere: “I knew they weren’t college girls. It was crazy. It was like I was in a strip club.”
This one is interesting to me, because I started my career in college basketball. The reasons I got out were as follows:
1. I thought I was going to be poor longer than I wanted.
2. Most importantly, I thought there was a 50/50 chance I would be 35 years old and left holding the bag for a recruiting violation that EVERYONE in the program knew was the reality.
Let me unfold that second point. When I was a Graduate Assistant and a young Assistant Coach in college basketball, one of my peer-based mentors (a guy who was 33 to my 24 at the time) took the fall for recruiting violations at a Top 20 program. He was out of the game for 2 years, and he eventually found his way into the NBA where he's thrived as a scout, assistant coach and has even served as interim head coach.
Everyone in his program knew shortcuts where a part of the process. But, the head coach took careful methods to ensure he wasn't to close to the action.
It's called plausible deniability. I didn't directly know, so I shouldn't be held accountable.
Sex to recruits isn't the right thing to do. But load a Graduate Assistant up with cash and instruct them to make sure recruits have a good time, and you get what you get.
But you didn't tell them to bring hookers into the dorm, right? Perfect. Maybe you could have set a few boundaries?
Pitino's big play as this has broken was to call on the former graduate assistant to come forward and tell the truth. He doesn't mean it, and he doesn't want that kid to be interviewed by anyone.
Real leaders don't rely on plausible deniability as their fall back position. Real leaders describe what's acceptable in broad terms, then trust their people to execute the plan with autonomy.
If you manage people in any business, there's some form of plausible deniability available in your role. If you're a real leader, your job is to eliminate that, then own the actions of your team if and when they fall down. That's leadership.