A fan who reportedly shouted an insult at Louisville coach Rick Pitino during halftime of the Cardinals game against North Carolina Wednesday was told he could return after being tossed from the Smith Center, a UNC official said.
The fan was sitting in a seat near the court that belongs to season ticket holders or people who have been offered the seat by groups like booster organization the Rams Club, said Clint Gwaltney, UNC’s senior associate athletic director for operations.
Video from the game shows Pitino walking toward the locker rooms and past the fan, who was standing on the side of the court. Pitino turned back toward the fan, shouting as other coaches restrained him. Gwaltney said he does not know the man or his name.
ESPN’s Maria Taylor, who was near the altercation, reported the fan yelled, “Pitino, you S-U-C-K,” spelling out the word on the air.
The decision to remove the man was made after a Louisville official requested he be asked to leave following the confrontation, Gwaltney said.
The Louisville official then pointed out the man, and police and security escorted him out, he said.
“It was more than anything trying not to let the situation escalate itself any more than it had,” Gwaltney said. “And it was a preventative measure more than anything else.”
He directed any questions about the man’s name to the UNC police department, which has not yet responded to calls for comment.
After the fan was ejected, officials spoke to people who had come to the game with him, Gwaltney said. Officials said the man was told he was allowed to return to the Smith Center but had to watch the rest of the game from elsewhere in the arena.
“According to the individuals he was with, he had access to other tickets,” Gwaltney said. “We were just trying to have him just not in that general vicinity.”
He didn’t know whether the man re-entered the game.
After Louisville’s 74-63 loss to UNC, Pitino said he argued with the fan because the fan got in his face and said something he didn’t like. Pitino called the man “a coward.”
UNC coach Roy Williams said he learned about the incident after the game and apologized to Pitino.