New court documents accuse Louisville basketball head coach Chris Mack of threatening to pull players’ scholarships after the team failed to make the NCAA Tournament, among other details emerging from former assistant coach Dino Gaudio’s extortion case.
According to the report by WDRB’s Marcus Green and Travis Ragsdale, Mack’s threat to pull scholarships came during a coaches’ meeting on March 14, with Gaudio fighting back by telling the Louisville coach the school needed to “honor their commitments to the young men they recruited.”
Gaudio also claims he confronted Mack about alleged NCAA recruiting and COVID-19 health and safety protocol violations “at least twice” in the summer of 2020, with the claims centered around organized team workouts.
“On March 14, coaches and players gathered to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show,” the court documents read. “As the evening wore on, it became increasingly clear that Louisville was going to fall just short of being selected to compete in the NCAA Tournament. The mood soured and Mack called a coaches meeting following the disappointing Selection Show.
“Mack immediately began criticizing the players. He repeatedly stated that his players were not good enough to meet his expectations. Mack began threatening to pull players’ scholarships. Dino jumped to the defense of Louisville’s basketball players. Dino told Mack that he could not rescind scholarships because the basketball team did not fulfill his expectations and that they had to honor their commitments to the young men they recruited. Pointedly, Dino told Mack that had they not lost several likely wins from their schedule because of the number of COVID cases they would have been comfortably in the NCAA Tournament.
“To Dino, Mack was blaming his own failures on everyone else. It was particularly troubling that Mack was blaming his players. Nonetheless, Dino stopped short of calling Mack out for his failure to accept personal responsibility for a disappointing end to the season.”
The former Louisville assistant pleaded guilty in June to a charge of Interstate Communication with Intent to Extort after attempting to receive 17 months salary in exchange for not turning the program in for the alleged violations. Gaudio says Mack agreed to pay his severance package “either through the University of Louisville or personally” during a meeting on March 17, 2021. The Louisville head coach fired Gaudio during the meeting and allegedly taped the conversation without the former assistant’s knowledge.
Court documents revealed the full context of Mack’s meeting with Gaudio, his firing and the extortion charges that followed:
“On March 17, 2021, Mack asked Dino to meet with him in his office. Unbeknown to his friend of 30 years, Mack taped his conversation with Dino. Mack informed Dino that he would not be renewing his contract which expired on April 30, 2021 because of “poor staff chemistry.” Dino was shocked, wounded and angry. He was slightly over a year from his anticipated retirement in September 2022. He was going to be left unemployed and without health insurance at nearly 64 years of age by someone he believed to be a close friend. Moreover, Dino left a beloved job at ESPN to come to Louisville to assist Mack. Dino had separated from his entire family in order to protect the health of his family while maintaining his commitment to the Louisville basketball program and his long-time friend Chris Mack. Dino had contributed significantly to the Louisville basketball program through his recruiting prowess, coaching experience and relationship with the players. Dino had always received glowing reviews from Mack. Despite all he had done and all he had sacrificed, Mack discarded him without notice at 64 years of age in what Dino perceived as a poorly veiled attempt to shift blame for his own failures on to Dino and Luke Murray, who Mack also dismissed on March 17.
“Within this context, Dino confronted Mack about the continuing NCAA violations within the basketball program. Dino told Mack he was going to disclose the NCAA violations if he was not paid a severance package as either a lump sum representing his salary through September 2022, which was Dino’s anticipated retirement date, or continue to be paid monthly until
September 2022. Knowing that he was recording the conversation, Mack implied a lack of knowledge about NCAA rules violations. This further inflamed Dino because he knew that was not accurate. It should be noted that on March 18, 2021 the University of Louisville self-reported violations to the NCAA.
“Mack stated to Dino that he did not want to “f… up your livelihood.” Mack stated, “I love you.” Mack further stated, “I feel like I owe you.” Mack stated, “I’m not trying to f… your family and your money. I love you.” Mack agreed to pay Dino’s severance package either through the University of Louisville or personally, if necessary.
“After leaving Mack’s office, Dino got increasingly angry that Mack had the audacity to imply a lack of knowledge about the recruiting videos which violated NCAA policy when it was Mack who had ordered team personnel to recruits’ hometowns to film the recruiting videos. As such, Dino sent one of the 30 for 30 recruiting videos to Mack a couple of hours after their meeting to prove he knew Mack was being disingenuous. Subsequently that evening, Dino left Mack a voicemail delineating the details of their financial agreement.
“The following day Dino came to the Louisville basketball offices to meet with Mack per their discussion and to clear the air. Dino thought they had agreed on a severance package. Dino was refused the opportunity to meet with Mack. Mack never gave Dino the opportunity to rescind his statements about only remaining quiet about the NCAA violations if he was provided a severance package. It is important to note that Dino did not retaliate by contacting the NCAA but, rather, left campus as directed. Subsequently, Mack’s surreptitious recording of their March 17 meeting was handed over to federal authorities.”
“Dino certainly did not believe this Sunday night meeting was some sort of watershed in his relationship with Mack,” Gaudio’s attorney Brian Butler says.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari came to Gaudio’s defense regarding the longtime coach’s reputation both on and off the floor, submitting a letter to The Honorable Benjamin Beaton of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
“In my 38 years of coaching at both the collegiate and professional level, I have developed relationships with countless parents, players, administrators and coaches. Dino Gaudio is one of the finest individuals that I have befriended over these many years,” Calipari said. “I have known Dino for more than 35 years having met him when he was a high school coach at Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, West Virginia and I was an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Over these many years he has had the same core values and priorities which he has instilled in everyone he has had contact with on a professional and personal level.
“… Dino has accepted responsibility for his actions and hopefully will have the opportunity to impact countless more young coaches and players as he moves into the next phase of his life. People like Coach Gaudio need to be mentors for the youth in our community.”
The court documents included a number of letters in support of Gaudio.
Including this one from Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari. pic.twitter.com/YyRpXVvFc3
— Travis Ragsdale (@TravisRagsdale) August 11, 2021
WDRB reports that Gaudio will avoid prison time, as his plea deal calls for probation and a “low-end fine,” with prosecutors recommending a $10,000 fine. Sentencing will take place on August 27.
Read the complete court documents here.