Rick Pitino is not the cheating monster he's being made out to be in the media ... he's actually a REALLY good dude who STILL takes care of his former players ... so says one ex-Louisville hoops star.
We spoke with Luke Hancock -- who was the Final Four "most outstanding player" during the 2013 national championship run ... and he's going to bat for his coach in a big way.
"I feel honored to have been a Louisville Cardinal," Hancock says ... telling TMZ Sports the allegations surrounding Pitino's basketball program do not reflect the man he truly is.
In fact, Hancock says Pitino personally took care of him when his father was gravely ill and he still looks to Rick as a "father figure."
Of course, the NCAA moved to vacate Louisville's national championship and dozens of wins after finding that officials in the U of L program were organizing sex parties for recruits and players.
But Luke says the NCAA will never be able to erase the fact that their team was one of the best ever -- and he's still got the rings to prove it!