NEW YORK – The best air-conditioned moment of a best air-conditioned day at the federal artifice case featuring one of academy basketball’s best air-conditioned characters had to be the afterward … well, actually, there are abounding contenders.
Maybe it was aback Billy Preston ashore his Dodge Charger on the campus of the University of Kansas. The actuality a top admission basketball recruit was active such a car acquired activity with the KU acquiescence office, which advised who endemic the vehicle.
Text letters afterwards arise Preston’s mother Nicole Amateur aloof about affairs the car for her son, but, for whatever acumen (and you can allegedly guess), the car was, according to statements by aegis advocate Mike Schachter, registered with “Nicole Player’s afresh asleep grandmother” who lived in Florida.
Wait, a abundant grandmother who collection a Dodge Charger? That’s one air-conditioned abundant grandmother.
“The University of Kansas was annoyed with that,” Schachter said.
Actually, maybe that wasn’t the craziest moment. It was what came next. That’s aback in the action of attractive into the car, KU apparent a wire alteration to Amateur that came from a man declared T.J. Gassnola. Amateur lived in Euless, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Gassnola hailed from Ludlow, Massachusetts, a little boondocks a brace hours west of Boston.
There appeared to be no acceptable acumen for this barter – and there wasn’t, at atomic by NCAA standards. Gassnola, a affiliate of Adidas’ declared “Black Ops” accumulation and AAU aggregation owner, abundant from the attestant angle how he had plied Amateur with $89,000 over the advance of about a year, including a $30,000 banknote payout in a New York auberge allowance and addition $20,000 brick delivered while in Las Vegas.
But wait, that’s not the best part.
Worried there was no able annual for the payments, Amateur texted Gassnola to acquaint him she had told KU admiral the two had been complex in an “intimate” relationship, assertive such action would somehow accomplish it NCAA legal. Maybe that would get them out of trouble, she theorized.
Among the affidavit this was ability not be believed: Amateur had a chambermaid partner, Timicha Kirby, who happened to be a woman.
“She hoped it wouldn’t bother my fiancé,” Gassnola said of what he said was a fabricated affair, afore breaking into a cackle and rolling his eyes. “OK, acknowledgment Nicole.”
Courtroom 26B bankrupt into amusement because aback you are this far bottomward the aerial aperture of the abyss of academy basketball, there isn’t abundant abroad to do. The federal artifice balloon of Adidas admiral Jim Gatto, Merl Code and middleman/would-be abettor Christian Dawkins is about the amphitheater of the antic – and few are added antic than T.J. Gassnola, this burly, barbate fable in his own mind.
Gassnola was a admired Adidas consultant, paid $150,000 a year – added than his absolute boss, Gatto – and afforded an amount annual he abused to the tune of up to $300,000 a year.
As an aside: How do you absorb $300K a year on travel? Well, on a one-night cruise to Portland in 2017, Gassnola managed to bead $598.41 on a distinct allowance at the Nines Hotel. A administrator there said such a bill allegedly meant he busy one of their 1,200-plus-square-foot suites: “You can get a approved allowance tonight for $199.”
That is allegedly added than abundant for a one-night cruise for best people, but not the buyer of the New England Playaz.
“It’s spelled P-l-a-y-a-z?” asked Schachter, a banal advocate who doesn’t arise up on artery lingo, if this akin qualifies as such.
“I alone went to aerial school, I didn’t go to college,” Gassnola cracked.
Even Judge Lewis A. Kaplan laughed at that.
Anyway, the amount corruption was accustomed by Adidas because Gassnola was accomplished at establishing relationships with academy coaches and aristocratic affairs alike. Akin better, he was added accomplished at carrying bundles of banknote to players, their families, their coaches and anyone abroad with whom Adidas capital to back-scratch favor.
So abundant money was accepting active in and taken out of his coffer annual that Gassnola couldn’t akin anamnesis one specific instance area he withdrew $40,000 in banknote and flew to North Carolina with it. He remembered a altered time he did that, but allegedly not a abstracted one.
Such an act was aloof too approved of an occurrence.
Gassnola is unique, but afresh again not unique. There aren’t abounding who can bout his colossal anatomy and colossal personality, but there are 50 added middlemen out there aloof like him who absolutely run academy basketball. This is the sport, no amount what Mark Emmert’s Blue Ribbon Commission thinks. And Gassnola will still be on the angle aback the balloon resumes Monday.
Armed with Adidas’ money and a bright mission to bear abundant players to Adidas colleges, Gassnola agitated massive cache.
He met consistently with any academy drillmaster in America. Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Bill Self, whomever. Self and Gassnola consistently discussed recruiting targets, although Gassnola claimed he never anon told anyone at Kansas about his payments. He and Pitino exchanged texts, including one appropriate afterwards the aspersion broke, because, as Gassnola told the FBI, he “believed Pitino was complex in and acquainted of the [Brian] Bowen deal” area Adidas promised to accommodate $100,000 to Bowen’s dad for Bowen to comedy for the Cards.
Other affidavit and wiretaps advance Pitino didn’t absolutely apperceive all the capacity and maintained, in the words of Code, at atomic “plausible deniability.”
It’s adamantine to tell, really.
During the application of Orlando’s Nassir Little, Gassnola boasted he could get the kid to the University of Miami by accepting arch drillmaster Jim Larranaga alarm Gatto and acquaint him Little was a antecedence for the Hurricanes. Little’s AAU drillmaster was gluttonous $150,000 for the player, Gassnola said, and allegedly Arizona was accommodating to pay it. Gassnola capital Little to go to an Adidas academy (Miami) rather than a Nike academy (Arizona).
“Larranaga will accomplish the buzz alarm aback I acquaint him to and anybody will be paid,” Gassnola said on wiretap.
Well, abiding enough, aloof as Gatto said he would, Larranaga declared Gatto. Gatto, however, said no money was discussed. “He aloof asked about the kid,” Gatto said on the wire. The federal case bankrupt afore any money could be provided. Little anguish up at North Carolina.
Another time, Gassnola and Gatto visited Indiana and according to a announcement account the trip, Gassnola wrote “Jim assured [then]-Coach [Tom Crean] we are actuality to help. … We accustomed huggs (sic).”
What “help” agency is accessible to debate. Crean eventually absent his job at Indiana in allotment for not recruiting able-bodied enough, so whatever “help” Gatto and Gassnola were talking about didn’t, well, help. But did aloof the achievement Gassnola ability be of any use for the Hoosiers absolutely accreditation a hug?
“Tom hugged me,” Gassnola testified.
Gassnola admired regaling the board with tales of his aing relationships with coaches, and how accidentally he doled out of cash. He had a affection for capacity bags into magazines and commitment it to people. Addition time he had his fiancé wire $20,000 to Player’s partner.
It absolutely shouldn’t accept been such a appreciative moment. He was sitting on the angle as allotment of a accord to accreditation a bottom book for not aloof federal cabal accuse but additionally tax artifice and added different problems.
Gassnola seemed absent to the abstraction he had become a basketball rat. He generally batten of the accent of “loyalty” and, at one point, said he still advised Gatto “a abundant friend,” allegedly apathy he was anon testifying adjoin Gatto.
With accompany like these, academy basketball doesn’t angle a chance.
Gassnola aloof kept bombing out details. There was a $15,000 acquittal to then-high academy inferior Deandre Ayton, who afterwards chose Arizona anyway, a accommodation that aghast Gassnola greatly.
“Did you feel you let Drillmaster Self bottomward aback Deandre Ayton did not go to the University of Kansas,” Schachter asked.
“I did,” Gassnola stated.
This was the dichotomy of Gassnola’s testimony. On one hand, he kept angrily claiming he never batten to coaches about the payouts, but on the aing he’d allege about how abundant they all begged for his help.
“The basketball apprenticeship staffs appetite assistance,” Gassnola said.
Regardless of motive, he provided it. There were bags of banknote to Player. There was $2,500 to the guardian of Silvio De Sousa. There was altercation of addition $20,000 because the guardian had allegedly taken $60,000 from a booster for Maryland and bare to pay aback some money in adjustment to assurance with Kansas. Gassnola said he never gave the $20K – allegedly because how was the Maryland booster absolutely activity to appeal a acknowledgment of a bribe? De Sousa went to his adopted KU anyway.
Another time, Schachter alleged, the aerial academy drillmaster of Diamond Stone said Stone’s ancestors bare $150,000 for the amateur to sign. Gassnola allegedly wouldn’t bite. Stone would up at Maryland. So, it was win some, lose some.
Gassnola either gave Dennis Smith Jr. $40,000 or $80,000, depending on his anamnesis aback he was a accomplish to Adidas-sponsored North Carolina State. The one affair he was assertive of included aerial to Raleigh with $40K in a big envelope and giving it to N.C. State abettor Orlando Early to advanced to the family.
Gassnola said Early had ahead declared gluttonous such abetment because the Smiths weren’t accessible to control. “He was … accepting issues befitting the bearings together,” Gassnola testified. So Gassnola swept in, like some affectionate of AAU Superman, analytic the botheration with his allowance and guile.
“That was the appropriate affair to do,” Gassnola said.
After bottomward the money, he flew aback to New England, aboriginal class, of course.
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