Louisville fires coach Rick Pitino amid NCAA bribery probe

The University of Louisville fired legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino on Monday, nearly three weeks after the school was implicated in a national bribery scandal.

"We simply felt this was in the best interest of the university," Greg Postel, the college's interim president, said after the unanimous vote by the athletic association board, which capped six hours of closed-door meetings.

Pitino, who had been head men's coach since 2001 and led the team to a national championship in 2013, fought to stop the school from terminating his contract, which still has $44 million left on it.

Included in a 53-page defense packet were the results of a voluntary polygraph exam in which Pitino said he did not know that a star recruit's family had been paid off; the examiner said his answers did not appear deceptive.

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Rick Pitino throughout his career
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Rick Pitino throughout his career
Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino reacts against the Michigan Wolverines during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky Wildcats coach Rick Pitino directs his team during Kentucky's 83-63 win over Wake Forest in their NCAA Midwest Regional Final game in Minneapolis, MN, March 23. Kentucky advances to the NCAA Final Four playoffs next weekend. rj/Photo by R. NCAA SPORTS
Kentucky coach Rick Pitino talks with team members (L-R) Jared Picket, Anthony Epps and Ron Mercer during a time out in their NCAA regional semifinal game against St. Joseph's in San Jose, March 20. The Kentucky Wildcats will face the Utah Utes on March 22 in a regional final match. SPORT NCAA
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Rick Pitino (R) answers reporters questions during a team press conference in San Jose, March 21. Behind Pitino is forward Ron Mercer. Kentucky will face Utah in the final game of the West Regionals, March 22. The winner advances to the Final Four. ake/DIGITAL/Photo by J. SPORT NCAA BASKETBALL
Kentucky head basketball coach Rick Pitino talks to reporters about his team's upcoming national championship game against Arizona during a press conference at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, March 30. Kentucky beat Minnesota 78-69 to advance to the national championship game. SPORT NCAA
Rick Pitino answers a question from reporters at a press conference to introduce him to the Boston media as the new Head Coach and President of the Boston Celtics, in Boston, May 8. Pitino accepted a 10-year, $70 million offer that will make him the richest coach in professional sports. The Celtics won only 15 games last season. SPORT NBA
Boston Celtics new head coach Rick Pitino watches his team play the Chicago Bulls in his debut with the team October 31. Pitino, who had previously coached the University of Kentucky, was named head coach of the Celtics in the off-season. SPORT NBA
Boston Celtics head coach Rick Pitino (R) confers with forward Antoine Walker (L) during a break in action against the Orlando Magic as the clubs met February 8. In the center is Celtics guard Kenny Anderson. Orlando beat Boston 107 - 90. JLS/SV/JDP
Boston Celtics' head coach Rick Pitino instructs his players on the court during first quarter action of the Celtics' home opener of the 2000 NBA season against the Detroit Pistons November 1, 2000 in Boston. JB
Former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino answers questions about becoming the new University of Louisville head basketball coach during a press conference in Louisville, KY, March 21, 2001. Pitino is replacing retiring Hall of Fame head coach Denny Crum. JPS/RCS
University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino (R) gives instructions to player Brandon Bender (L) during the first half of play in their game with the South Alabama Jaguars' at Freedom Hall in Louisville, November 18, 2001. Tonight's game is Pitino's first as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals since leaving the Boston Celtics of the NBA. REUTERS/John Sommers II JPS
University of Louisville's head coach Rick Pitino yells instructions to his team from the bench during the second half of play in their game against Tulane in their second round game of the mens Conference USA tournament at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, March 13, 2003. Louisville won, 82-66. REUTERS/ John Sommers II JPSII
University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reacts to his players play during the second half of play against the University of Cincinnati at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, February 2, 2005. Louisville won 77-70. REUTERS/John Sommers II JPSII
University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino hugs forward Francisco Garcia as he leaves the game with 21 points in the final seconds of their NCAA second round basketball game against Georgia Tech in Nashville, Tennessee March 20, 2005. The University of Louisville defeated Georgia Tech 76-54. REUTERS/Tami Chappell TLC
University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reacts to his players during the second half of play against the University of Cincinnati in their NCAA basketball game at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, January 25, 2006. REUTERS/John Sommers II
University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino talks with guard Jerry Smith (34) during the overtime period of their NCAA Big East men's basketball tournament loss to University of Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden in New York, March 13, 2008. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
Louisville Cardinals Terrence Williams stands with coach Rick Pitino after the Cardinals defeated the Syracuse Orange to win the championship game at the 2009 NCAA Big East men's college basketball tournament in New York, March 14, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reacts to his team's play against Syracuse University during the first half of play in their NCAA basketball game at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, March 6, 2010. REUTERS/ John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino gestures in the first half of their NCAA men's championship basketball game against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the 2012 Big East Tournament in New York March 10, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino talks to his team during a time-out in the final minutes of their win over the Michigan State Spartans during the NCAA men's West Regional basketball tournament in Phoenix, Arizona March 22, 2012. REUTERS/Darryl Webb (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino celebrates with his team after coming from behind to defeat the Florida Gators in the NCAA men's West Regional basketball tournament in Phoenix, Arizona March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino (L) directs his team against Georgetown University in the first half of their NCAA basketball game in Washington January 26, 2013. Georgetown upset Louisville, who lost their third straight game, dropping them further in the NCAA rankings. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino yells instructions to his team as Oregon Ducks forward Arsalan Kazemi (14) sets to pass during their Midwest Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino is hugged by forward Chane Behanan (L) and guard Russ Smith after defeating the Duke Blue Devils during their Midwest Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino argues with an official during the NCAA men's Final Four basketball game against the Wichita State Shockers in Atlanta, Georgia April 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
NBA legends Bernard King (L) and Gary Payton (C) stand with Louisville Cardinals' head coach Rick Pitino with their jerseys during the announcement of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino cuts part of the net after his team defeated the Michigan Wolverines to win the NCAA men's Final Four championship basketball game in Atlanta, Georgia April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
U.S. President Barack Obama laughs as University of Louisville Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino gives him a Louisville Slugger baseball bat during an event honoring NCAA basketball championship team at the White House in Washington July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SPORT BASKETBALL)
Oct 3, 2015; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino talks to the media following a scrimmage at KFC YUM! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals looks on in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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"I have given no 'cause' for termination of my contract," Pitino said in an affidavit, adding, "I will fight tirelessly to defend my reputation."

Postel said the university was prepared for the possibility that Pitino would sue for wrongful termination and did not rule out the possibility of an out-of-court settlement.

Pitino, who had been suspended without pay since the allegations were made public last month, is not charged with a crime in the ongoing probe and has denied wrongdoing.

But he oversaw assistant coaches who are accused of conspiring with athletic middlemen and an Adidas executive to funnel payoffs to the parents of prospective players.

And he appears in a criminal complaint as the unidentified Coach-2, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

Those court papers detail how one of the defendants was caught on a wiretap saying he expected Adidas to underwrite payments to a player because of Pitino's close ties to the sportswear giant.

Related: Pitino Blames Bribery Case on a 'Few Bad Actors'

"All [Coach-2 has to do] is pick up the phone and call somebody [and say] these are my guys, they're taking care of us," amateur league coach Jonathan Brad Augustine boasted, according to the complaint.

Pitino was also referred to in connection with an alleged scheme to offer a bigger payoff to a player who was offered more money by a rival athletic company.

A sports agent was recorded saying he asked Coach-2 to call Adidas about ponying up more cash. According to the FBI, phone records show that the coach made three calls to Jim Gatto, Adidas' director of global sports marketing, in the week before the player committed to Louisville in return for a $100,000 payment to his family.

In his affidavit, Pitino said there was nothing nefarious about the calls.

"Although I know and have communicated with Gatto by phone and by text, I have never discussed with him — overtly, covertly, in code, through nuance, or in any other way — the provision of improper benefits to an UL basketball player or recruit," he wrote.

Related: Is Paying Players the Answer to NCAA Scandal?

When the criminal complaints were filed, Louisville put Pitino on administrative leave. The board subsequently voted to begin the process of firing the coach, saying his "involvement in these recent scandals cannot be considered isolated events."

"Instead, they are illustrative of a pattern and practice of inappropriate behavior," it said.

In June, the National Collegiate Athletic Association hit Pitino with a five-game suspension after investigating allegations that a former team staffer had supplied escorts to recruits and players. And in 2010, Pitino, the married father of five children, admitted in court that he had sex in a restaurant with a former model who later went to prison for trying to extort him.

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