Rick Pitino: 'I deserved to be fired by Louisville'

What will Rick Pitino's return to coaching mean for his legacy? (3:39)

ESPN's Michael Eaves chronicles the infamous basketball coaching career of former Louisville/new Iona head coach Rick Pitino, and questions what his legacy will be at the end of his career. (3:39)

New Iona coach Rick Pitino said Monday he "deserved to be fired by Louisville" three years ago after the FBI opened an investigation into fraud and corruption in college basketball.

Louisville's board voted unanimously to fire Pitino in October 2017 after allegations against Louisville that included payments of $100,000 to the family of a recruit. No one from Louisville was arrested and Pitino has always said he was not aware of any pay-for-play scheme.

But he told WFAN radio that he has accepted that he failed as a leader.

"Looking back on it now, I deserved to be fired by Louisville," Pitino said. "Was I innocent of any wrongdoing? Yes I was, but I was the leader and I deserved to be fired. I need to move on and that's what I probably have learned the most."

Pitino's admission is a departure somewhat from the stance he took in his 2018 book, "Pitino: My Story," in which he said the school's board of trustees was "out to get me," and that the decision to fire him "with no investigation, no trial, no nothing" was influenced by then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Papa John's founder John Schnatter.

He did take some accountability last September in settling his lawsuit against the university, with the two sides saying in a joint statement: "Although these [NCAA] infractions may not have occurred at Coach Pitino's direction or with his knowledge, the problems leading to the NCAA infractions happened under his leadership."

Pitino went to coach in Greece when no one in college basketball was interested in hiring him until the legal process concluded.

"It was strange because I've sort of been blackballed out of the business for two and a half years," Pitino said. "Then when the trial came about, I was exonerated as one by one everybody got on the stand -- the recruit's dad, the Adidas representatives -- I settled the lawsuit with Adidas and it all came together for me. I had to wait two and a half years for the trial to finally get exonerated and colleges in the last three weeks started calling me."

Pitino, 67, told ESPN last June that he wanted to pursue a job in the NBA, but he has made clear since taking the Iona position that it will be the final job of his career -- largely because of the size of his contract buyout.

"I don't have a very large contract with Iona. I think it can be put on one page," said Pitino, who also told WFAN he drew interest from Holy Cross. "But I can tell you right now; the only school that can afford me with my buyout is Fort Knox University. I don't think with the type of buyout that I have -- and I'm even too embarrassed to tell you the number it's so scary -- Iona is definitely my last stop. I almost laugh at the buyout it's so comical.

"I'm at my best developing young athletes. That's where I belong. I'm super excited about being at Iona. It will be my last stop, and I hope we make it a glorious run."