LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville starting power forward Chane Behanan has been suspended indefinitely by the university for violating school policy.
Coach Rick Pitino didn’t specify Thursday what the violation was but said Behanan violated a team rule.
The coach said the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Behanan, who played a key role in the Cardinals’ NCAA championship run last season, could possibly return in December. Pitino added that right now, however, he’s “more interested in Chane the man than Chane the basketball player.”
Pitino said arrangements had been made for Behanan to return after he committed the infraction, but that the player violated those conditions in less than a week.
Behanan, who participated in Louisville’s media day on Saturday, is still living on campus but is not in the team’s dormitory or participating in team activities. The Cardinals hold their final Red-White scrimmage on Saturday.
“I got together with (athletic director Tom Jurich) a few days ago. We both agreed that Chane should put basketball aside,” Pitino said. “Chane wouldn’t hurt a fly. It’s nothing of a violent nature. It’s just very difficult for Chane to follow rules. We don’t have a lot of rules, but the ones we do have, he needs to follow.”
Pitino praised Behanan as a respectful person and a good teammate, along with being a talented player. After the Cardinals won their third title last spring, the coach said watching video of the forward’s performance in the championship game and witnessing how much he had developed, made him cry.
At the same time, Pitino said discipline was needed for Behanan.
“He just has a difficult time understanding life’s values and the significance of life’s values,” Pitino said. “We’re going to try to help him along. … We want to see him prosper as a person as much as he’s been prospering as a basketball player. We’re going to move forward without him.”
Behanan is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The Cincinnati native was named to the Final Four all-tournament team after scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the Cardinals’ 82-76 victory over Michigan in Atlanta.
His absence leaves guard Russ Smith, last year’s leading scorer, and forward Wayne Blackshear as Louisville’s only returning starters. Promising 6-8, 240-pound sophomore Montrezl Harrell appears ready to step into Behanan’s role after an impressive summer with the gold medal-winning U.S. Under-19 World Championship team.
Senior forward Luke Hancock, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, also returns with guard Kevin Ware due back from a horrific right leg injury sustained in the Midwest regional final victory over Duke.
Louisville is also developing 6-8, 235-pound freshman Akoy Agau, and Pitino noted that his growth must be accelerated as a result of Behanan’s absence. For now, Harrell will man the position.
“When Montrezl comes out of the game, we’ll play Wayne Blackshear in the 4 spot,” Pitino said. “Wayne is not a whole lot smaller than Chane. Wayne gives you great rebounding. Wayne gives you great defense, toughness.”
While Louisville will be without a player whose size and power were valuable on both ends on floor, Pitino stressed the importance of Behanan getting his life together so he can help the team. Despite losing point guard Peyton Siva and 6-11 Gorgui Dieng from the title team, the Cardinals have lofty hopes of reaching their third consecutive Final Four and winning back-to-back champions.
Pitino said Louisville can’t allow those goals to be sidetracked by one player.
“When you’re going for a third final four, and your team has bought into 100 percent into trying to reach these lofty goals, and one person is not buying in, it just doesn’t work,” Pitino said. “Most important, he’s letting his team down.”