Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reportedly rejected a deal that would have relocated the then-Charlotte Hornets to Louisville, according to Bloomberg News.
When Pitino arrived at Louisville, a group of businessmen and politicians were in the midst of a pitch to land an NBA team due to the economic development that it could bring the city. The pitch even progressed to a point where they had a nonbinding agreement with the Charlotte Hornets, but Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich did not approve of the idea.
From the report:
They had no intention of sharing an arena with an NBA team—they didn’t even want to share the city with an NBA team. Louisville was theirs. David Stern, who was then commissioner of the NBA, recalls thinking, “If Rick Pitino doesn’t want us there, why are we going there?” The Hornets went to New Orleans instead.
The city went ahead with plans to build a new arena, which was initially designed to host the Hornets and Cardinals, but now the KFC Yum! Center just hosts the Cardinals.
Of course, Pitino and Jurich were both fired in October after it was revealed in a federal investigation that the university was involved in corrupt recruiting practices. The investigation stated that Adidas allegedly funneled $100,000 to five-star recruit Brian Bowen to sign with Louisville. The school announced last month that Bowen will not be allowed to play basketball for the team after conducting an internal investigation.
Despite the investigation, Pitino moved forward with a lawsuit against the school this month for $37.6 million after claiming his contract was breached and he was fired with no justified cause. He is seeking $4.3 million a year in the lawsuit – the value of his contract – from the last date he received a payment from the school through June of 2026. Pitino claims that he was not aware of the alleged payment that was made to Bowen.
Regardless of what happens in that lawsuit, sports fans in Louisville have to be upset knowing that the city could have reportedly been in the running to land the Hornets franchise.