David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer 386d

Anas Mahmoud shows support for former Louisville coach Rick Pitino

Men's College Basketball, Louisville Cardinals

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Louisville's Anas Mahmoud said his team is trying to focus on the future of the program rather than the scandal that has currently enveloped the Cardinals, but he's still supporting former coach Rick Pitino.

At the ACC's annual Operation Basketball event Wednesday, Mahmoud was asked whether he'd watched Pitino's interview with ESPN's Jay Bilas in which he discussed alleged activities that prompted an FBI investigation into the program and ultimately resulted in his ouster at Louisville.

"He looked exhausted, really tired," Mahmoud said. "His eyes were red. That's normal for what he's going through right now."

In the interview, Pitino said he was completely unaware of any wrongdoing at Louisville, including alleged payments to recruits funneled through Adidas, which is part of the FBI's investigation into several college basketball programs.

The investigation led to Pitino's dismissal as coach, but Mahmoud said he believes Pitino was not involved in any corruption.

"Me, personally, I believe everything he said," Mahmoud said. "But it's not for me to decide what his fate is."

Instead, he said Louisville's players are focusing on building chemistry under new coach David Padgett.

"Go to practice, have fun at practice, go out, go bowling, play laser tag together," Mahmoud said. "Sometimes when things like this happens, it helps you connect better."

For Mahmoud and Quentin Snider -- Louisville's representatives at Wednesday's event -- this is old hat. They were on the roster when another scandal involving an assistant coach hiring strippers for recruits came to light in 2015, resulting in a self-imposed postseason ban that spring.

"Everything came out of nowhere, but this one, I was prepared for it," Snider said.

Padgett said Wednesday that he did not anticipate a similar self-imposed ban now.

"That's one of the first questions I asked Dr. [Greg] Postel, our interim president," he said. "From everything I've been told or gathered, there's no indication that that's going to happen."

The experience of living through one scandal has helped the team deal with the latest, Mahmoud said. As Louisville prepares for the start of the season, the inevitable trickle of new details about the FBI investigation are a fact of life they're prepared to deal with.

"I don't like to say ignore it. That's not right," Mahmoud said. "We're able to acknowledge it, fight it and end it. We can't ignore the fact that we have a new coach. We're trying to move forward."

At the heart of the current investigation is the notion of players receiving money from shoe companies. While Snider said he's not a proponent of paying players directly, he does see how the scandal has helped expose some inequities in the process.

"I wish we could at least get paid for billboards and signs," Snider said. "Playing? I'm cool with it. But when your jersey is in stores, I feel like we should get paid off that. They're showing endorsements off us, and we're not getting anything back."

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