Rick Pitino’s contract was founded on faith. It bound the University of Louisville to its men’s basketball coach well past his 73rd birthday and, when first signed, for more than $50 million.
There was no provision to protect the university in the event the two parties simply tired of each other. There were no clauses to limit payments if Pitino was let go and then latched on somewhere else. It was a prenup drafted as if divorce were a remote possibility; legally naïve and arguably negligent.
It is a mistake Louisville is reluctant to repeat.
With Pitino pursuing a $38.7 million breach of contract lawsuit against his former employer, contesting its claim he was fired for “just cause” following a series of high-profile scandals, the university has adopted more precise and prudent language in its coaching contracts, beginning with the seven-year deal signed last March by men’s basketball coach Chris Mack.
While not as lucrative as Pitino’s, the agreement with Mack involves more than enough money to warrant due care. Mack’s starting annual compensation from the school is $4 million.