Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s wife has survived the loss of their son to heart failure and her brother on 9/11. New York native Joanne Minardi will likely stand by Pitino while he faces down the scandal involving Katina Powell and her claims of an elaborate sex trafficking and prostitution operation involving Louisville Cardinal players.
In her book, Breaking Cardinal Rules, Katina Powell claims that she supplied her two teenage daughters to potential UofL recruits for sex. According to the Courier-Journal, Powell also says that she was told Pitino knew about the operation. Obviously, the Cardinals coach has denied that allegation.
Here’s what you need to know about Rick Pitino’s better half:
1. In 2009, Pitino Paid for His Mistress to Have an Abortion
In April 2009, Pitino went public that he had been the victim of an extortion attempt from a woman named Karen Cunagin Sypher. The Louisville coach admitted that back in August 2003, he had a one-night-stand with Sypher. She told Pitino that their night of passion resulted in her becoming pregnant. Due to the fact that she had no health insurance, the coach paid her $3,000 for an abortion.
After that payment, Sypher got married to Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher. During her trial for extortion, Pitino said that the sex between him and Sypher lasted “no more than 15 seconds.” She was found guilty in the trial, while claiming that her marriage to Tim Sypher was a sham that she was forced into and that Pitino and the judge were involved in an elaborate conspiracy to have her found guilty.
2. Her Brother Was Working in the South Tower on 9/11 When He Was Killed
On September 11 2001, the New York natives Pitino and Minardi were hit especially hard by the attacks on their city when her brother and Pitino’s best friend Billy Minardi was killed. He had been working as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in the north tower on that fateful day. As result, a December game at the University of Louisville is consistently named as the Billy Minardi Classic, there’s also a dorm at the school named Billy Minardi Hall. According to an ESPN piece, there are 74 photos of Billy Minardi in Pitino’s home. In that article, Pitino says “My wife and I always say that life will never be as good as when Billy was alive. The void is that large for us. But with his children here, it helps so much. It doesn’t make up for the loss of their dad, but we all have each other.” He also added that it was Billy Minardi who coaxed Pitino into coaching the Boston Celtics in 1997.
One former recruit who claimed that sex was regularly on offer at the University of Louisville claimed that strip shows occurred at Billy Minardi Hall, reports ESPN.
Just a few months after that tragedy, Minardi’s sister’s husband, Don Vogt, was killed by a New York City cab.
3. One of Her Children Died at 6 Months After Suffering From Heart Failure
Together, Pitino and Minardi have five children, Michael, Christopher, Richard (the basketball coach at the University of Minnesota), Ryan and Jacqueline. In 1987, the family suffered a terrible loss when Daniel Pitino died at just 6 months from congenital heart failure. As a result, the family set up the Daniel Pitno Foundation and Shelter to help children in need. On the website for the organization, Minardi penned a beautiful poem to her son entitled “Daniel”:
God calls little children
to dwell with him above,
We mortals sometimes question
The wisdom of His love.
For no heartache compares with
the death of one small child,
who does so much to make our world
seem wonderful and mild.
Perhaps God tires of calling
the aged to His fold,
so He picks a rosebud
before it can grow old.
God knows how much we need them
and so He takes a few
To make the land of heaven
more beautiful to view.
Believing this is difficult,
still somehow we must try,
The saddest word mankind knows
will always be Goodbye.
So when a little child departs,
we who are left behind
must realize God loves children,
Angels are hard to find.
4. Minardi Met Pitino When He Was the Basketball Star of the Their High School
The couple first met each other in the early 1970s when they were both students at St. Dominic’s High School in Oyster Bay, Long Island, reports Newsday. Their entire family often vacation in Saratoga, New York, according to ESPN. After Pitino took Louisville all the way to the National Championship, Minardi told Yahoo Sports “I’m so proud of him. Just so proud…I knew he could do this again. He has the capacity to nurture and love so much.”
5. Her Son Says, ‘If [She] Met Some Random Person on the Side of the Road She Would Tell Them She Lives in New York’
In a 2014 New York Times feature about Pitino, it’s mentioned how proud Minardi is of being from the Big Apple. Her son Richard says in the piece “If my mom met some random person on the side of the road, she would tell them she lives in New York. She doesn’t, but she tells them that. If she hasn’t had a cup of coffee and read The New York Post, don’t talk to her until she has, because that starts her day.”