Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino calls NCAA's ruling on 2013 national championship banner 'unjust'

NEW YORK -- Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino said it was "unjust" for the NCAA to rule that the Cardinals had to take down their 2013 national championship banner.

"To say I'm disappointed with the NCAA's appeals ruling is a gross understatement," Pitino said during a news conference held at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig in Manhattan.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that it was upholding the ruling that Louisville would have to vacate its wins from 2011 to 2015, including its 2013 title and its 2012 Final Four appearance. The penalties came as a result of an investigation into allegations that former Louisville staff member Andre McGee arranged parties and strippers for players and recruits at Billy Minardi Hall on Louisville's campus.

"Did a few of [the players] partake in parties they didn't organize? Yes they did," Pitino said. "But that had nothing to do with an extra benefit. That had nothing to do with helping their eligibility or performance in winning that championship.

"Those parties did not enhance our players' ability to win a national championship or go to a Final Four."

Pitino said the school's board of trustees should fight the NCAA on the ruling.

"How do you take down a championship? They've earned it," he said. "You need to get an injunction. The NCAA, they have total autonomy. I'm sure Notre Dame is not going to let it happen, and neither should the University of Louisville, in my opinion. I wish I could do it. Unfortunately, I'm defenseless."

Pitino also reiterated that while he is responsible for hiring the staff member involved, he did not know about McGee's actions.

"I had no knowledge of the reprehensible things that went on in that dormitory," he said. "If I hired the wrong people at times, I take full ownership and responsibility for everyone I've hired. I've hired some awfully great ones."

Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were placed on administrative leave in September after the program was linked to the FBI investigation into fraud and corruption in college basketball. The allegations against Louisville included payments of $100,000 to the family of Brian Bowen to sign with the Cardinals. Bowen was suspended indefinitely after the investigation and later transferred to South Carolina.

Pitino was fired for cause in October.

In a written statement released Wednesday, Pitino denied involvement.

"In 40 years of coaching, I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in any effort to pay any money or extend any improper benefit to any recruit or any recruit's family members or representatives," Pitino said in the statement. "I knew nothing about any agreement to make improper payments, and had no reason to suspect any illegality in the recruitment of any athlete in my programs. I never engaged in any improper communication with anyone, or had any part in such effort -- overtly, covertly, in code, through nuance, or in any other way.

"Not with sneaker company representatives, not with coaches, not with agents, not with recruits' family members, not with anybody. I have never been involved, nor asked anyone to get involved, in such corrupt behavior and have never approved of it. Corruption and cheating have no place in any program I have run."

Pitino said he has cooperated with the FBI's investigation.

ESPN asked Pitino whether he's had any discussions with NBA teams or college programs about getting back into coaching.

"I have not," he said. "I miss it. I miss every minute of player development, every minute of scouting and game-planning to beat an opponent, I miss every minute of every timeout. But what the NCAA did, what this committee did, hurts. And it takes time to get over that hurt.

"I do really think it's unjust. But again, I fully take ownership for the people I hired."