There were positives for new N.C. State basketball coach Kevin Keatts in being associated with Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
But the negatives were on view Tuesday, with Pitino’s Louisville program caught up in another scandal, the latest a federal investigation into bribery and fraud in basketball recruiting.
Keatts, who met the media on Tuesday, declined to answer any questions about Pitino or the FBI investigation, which ensnared 10 schools and led to the arrest of four assistant coaches and an executive for the sneaker company adidas.
Pitino was put on administrative leave on Wednesday.
Keatts and N.C. State were not implicated in the investigation.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to (Pitino),” Keatts said. “I found out just when you did.”
Keatts worked for Pitino for three seasons as an assistant coach and top recruiter from 2011 to ’14. Keatts helped Pitino and the Cardinals win the 2013 national title. The hall-of-fame coach had helped Keatts get the job, his first head-coaching job at the college level, at UNCW before the 2014-15 season.
Pitino and Louisville had already been in trouble with the NCAA for a recruiting scandal involving the use of an escort to lure recruits. Keatts had worked for Pitino during the years the NCAA has alleged Louisville committed recruiting violations – and are in the process of vacating the 2013 national title – but Keatts was not named in the NCAA investigation.
Louisville confirmed to the Louisville Courier-Journal that it was involved in the federal investigation made public by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in a press conference in New York on Tuesday afternoon.
The FBI complaint alleges an adidas executive conspired to pay $100,000 to the family of an unnamed “All-American” recruit who committed on June 3. Brian Bowen, a five-star recruit, who committed to Louisville on June 3, is the only prospect who fits that description.
N.C. State also recruited Bowen, a 6-7, 190-pound McDonald’s All-American from Saginaw, Mich. Bowen made an official visit to N.C. State during the fall recruiting period last year. When former coach Mark Gottfried was fired, and replaced by Keatts in March, Bowen’s interest in N.C. State waned.
Michigan State and Arizona, both schools with endorsement deals with Nike, were considered front-runners for Bowen before he made his surprise decision to go to Louisville.
Louisville, Miami and N.C. State are the only three ACC schools with current endorsement deals with adidas. Miami was also implicated in the FBI report on Tuesday in connection with the sneaker company helping them land a recruit.
Asked if the investigation would cause a change in how Keatts monitors recruits and how they interact with adidas, Keatts declined to comment.
“I want to keep this particular (press) conference about our players and the upcoming season,” Keatts said. “I obviously haven’t had any time to think about anything today other than our guys and being able to make sure they’re in the right places.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio