Tangled relationship at center of Pitino case
LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - The tangled relationship among Rick Pitino, his personal assistant and the assistant’s wife was thrown back into public view during the woman’s extortion trial this week.
Testimony from the Louisville coach and the assistant, Tim Sypher, marked the first time either had spoken at length about the tryst that tarnished Pitino’s reputation. Their testimony revealed the sordid details of the bizarre relationship and what happened between the one-night stand in a restaurant booth in 2003 and last year. That’s when Karen Cunagin Sypher was accused of demanding cash, cars and housing from Pitino in exchange for keeping quiet about the encounter.
Jurors were told that Pitino, a married father of five, and Karen Sypher had sex on July 31, 2003, after all other patrons and even the owner had left Porcini, one of the coach’s favorite places to eat. The two had met only a few hours earlier. Pitino said the encounter was consensual and lasted about “15 seconds.”
Karen Sypher would claim she was raped _ but not until years after that night. Police said the claims were meritless.
Pitino has denied the rape allegations and said they made him “sick to my stomach.” He testified that the whole ordeal left him physically and mentally worn out, unable to sleep as his team made what would be a successful push for the Big East conference championship. The coach feared his wife and children would find out and waited two months to tell the police about the threatening phone calls and letters he received to try and “contain” the information.
Ultimately, he would tell his family about the affair _ which he said was the most painful thing of all. He knew what a media storm it would cause and ultimately advised his son, Richard Pitino, who had been working for him, to take a job elsewhere.
“He told me he had a little problem with this woman,” Tim Sypher testified. “That he supposedly got someone pregnant.”
Tim Sypher said Pitino advised him to take Karen Sypher out of town. He called clinics in Indiana and Ohio before taking the woman to Cincinnati, where she had an abortion on Aug. 29, 2003. Tim Sypher said he paid for the procedure with $3,000 Pitino provided for medical care, then gave her the rest of the money.
The two started dating, sometimes attending university functions where Pitino was present, including a 2004 holiday party at Porcini.
“We clicked,” Tim Sypher said. “I loved her. I would have done anything for her.”