Over two years after leaving college basketball, Rick Pitino may be on his way back.
According to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, Pitino has informed his Panathinaikos players that he is returning to college basketball, and has already left Greece.
Breaking: Source tells @CBSSports that Rick Pitino has told his Panathinaikos B.C. players that he is returning to college basketball but will finish out the Euroleague season if/when it resumes. League halted play earlier this week and Pitino is currently in the United States.
Pitino had been linked to the Iona job once it came open. While it’s mid-major basketball, it is in the New York area that Pitino knows well.
The former Louisville coach, who lost his job due to a recruiting scandal, has been coaching in Greece since 2018. He had claimed that he wouldn’t return to college basketball, but that was always likely to change if the right offer came his way. Perhaps this is that offer.
Rick Pitino recently said he was planning to return to Greece to coach Panathinaikos next season if his children were on board with it, and the Hall of Fame coach has decided not to go that route.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Pitino has turned down an offer to return as president and head coach of Panathinaikos, as he is hoping to earn a full-time role with an NBA team. He said he is open to coaching or working in a player personnel or advisory role.
Panathinaikos was 7-0 when Pitino was named head coach, and he led the team to a perfect 15-0 record and a Greek Cup title. The 66-year-old said earlier this month that he is prepared to give up college basketball forever if he returns to Greece to coach next season and that he would make a decision after speaking with his kids. He previously insisted he was not interested in leaving Europe for a college job, and that still appears to be the case.
Pitino is one of the best college coaches of all time. He has won two national championships — one in 1996 and Kentucky and another in 2013 with Louisville, which was vacated. He was fired by Louisville in Oct. 2017 after being involved in a scandal involving the payment to a recruit who ended up at the school. He previously got into trouble with the NCAA and had a championship and Final Four appearance vacated over a sex scandal.
Pitino, 66, had two separate coaching stints in the NBA. He coached the Knicks for two seasons from 1987-1989 and then coached the Celtics from 1997-2001 before resigning in the middle of his fourth season. It’s unclear if there will be any interest in him from NBA teams, though he was linked to one head coaching vacancy last month.
Rick Pitino is ready for another year in Greece if his children are on board, even if it means the end of his college basketball career.
Pitino said he will travel to New York this week to speak with his kids and if they agree, he will sign on for another season with Greek club Panathinaikos. He warned, however, that it would mean the end of his college coaching career.
“You have to understand is that if I come back, I give up college basketball forever,” Pitino told Kostas Katevas of Cosmote TV, via EuroHoops. “It could never happen because I couldn’t leave Panathinaikos for a college in March or April. If I come back, it’s Panathinaikos and then death.”
Pitino has previously claimed he won’t leave Europe for a college job. It’s obvious that he still has the itch to coach in college if the timing is right despite that comment. The reality is that college basketball has likely moved on from him after the Louisville scandal. He won both the league and the Greek Cup this season, and Panathinaikos seems like a pretty good gig for him — perhaps the best he’ll get at this stage of his career.
One of the best college coaches ever, Pitino has won two national championships — one in 1996 and Kentucky and another in 2013 with Louisville, which was vacated. He had two separate coaching stints in the NBA. He coached the Knicks for two seasons from 1987-1989. He coached the Celtics from 1997-2001 before resigning in the middle of his fourth season.
After being tied to some coaching vacancies, Pitino said earlier this month that he was not interested in leaving Europe for a college job. In October, he did express interest in returning to the NBA.
The Cavaliers are looking for a new head coach after parting ways with Larry Drew, who replaced Ty Lue, who was fired after an 0-6 start to the season.
Rick Pitino’s name has been linked to virtually every prominent college basketball opening this offseason, but he’d have you believe he’s not interested in any of them.
Pitino’s Panathinaikos team is about to start the playoffs in Greece, and he said that takes priority right now — and no job or amount of money could change his mind.
“I’m enjoying being a pro coach. So far, we’ve had Las Vegas, we’ve had UCLA, we’ve had… It’s very difficult for me to be a college coach,” Pitino said, via EuroHoops. “All you have to do is look at the calendar timing-wise. I would have to leave to be a college coach and these guys are way too important to me, for me to leave at any point.
“There’s no amount of money, there’s no job, there’s nothing that would make me leave this team right now as we start the playoffs. So, if I was anybody in your shoes or elsewhere, I would not pay attention to any rumors because this basketball team is way too important to me to leave them at this time.”
It’s in the eye of the reader whether they find this believable or not. For what it’s worth, though, he has spoken about his preference to coach professionally, which is what he’s doing now.
Whenever there’s a decent college basketball coaching job available, there will be some people linking Rick Pitino to it. It even happens when the job isn’t available.
That’s the case with UNLV, with growing rumors about the safety of coach Marvin Menzies. Despite the rumors, it’s fair to say that Pitino won’t even be talking to UNLV as long as Menzies, his former assistant at Louisville, is employed there.
“I root for UNLV every game,” Pitino told Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday. “I have been a big fan since the Tark days. But now I root for them every game because of Marvin Menzies, a younger brother to me. I, nor my agent, haven’t had any discussions with UNLV about coaching there. I will continue to root for my ex-assistant coach every game. Go, Marvin.”
Pitino is currently coaching in Greece, and he’s sent mixed signals about coaching stateside again. Most recently, he said his preference would be to coach at the NBA level, but we’re guessing he’d listen to overtures from a solid college program — just not one that currently employs one of his close friends.
Pitino’s team took a rather odd route to the final after a semifinal forfeit, but they certainly seem to have played well when it counted. The team features several former college standouts, including Nick Calathes, Adreian Payne, Keith Langford, and Sean Kilpatrick. Also on the team is Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of Giannis.
Now 66, Pitino still wants to coach stateside, but faces a long road back after his Louisville program became caught up in an FBI probe. At least he can still find success overseas.
Olympiacos forfeited the game in protest of the referees. Pitino wrote about it on Twitter, saying he’d never experienced anything like it.
Well in 42 years of coaching I, thought I had seen it all. Up 15 at halftime. Motivating my team to come out with great intensity the first 5 minutes. We were fired up except Olympiakos never came back out. Game over. Onto the Greek Cup finals in Crete on Sunday #paobc
Olympiacos left the game at halftime while complaining about the referees. After that Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos put a pair of woman’s underwear on the empty bench of Olympiacos. pic.twitter.com/NVXNWF8wg1
Rumors have been circulating that UCLA may have interest in hiring Rick Pitino, but you might be able to pump the breaks on that talk.
College basketball reporter Adam Zagoria wrote in a piece for Forbes that prominent UCLA boosters Casey Wasserman and John Branca were backing Pitino as their No. 1 choice to replace Steve Alford. That’s significant because Wasserman has tremendous influence at the school.
Wasserman donated money to created The Wasserman Football Center on UCLA’s campus. He was also the primary driver behind the school securing Chip Kelly as football coach. If Wasserman wants something, there’s a good chance he can make it happen.
Rick Pitino led Panathinaikos to a 96-84 win over CSKA Moscow in his EuroLeague debut on Friday, and the Hall of Famer wasted no time showing his new team the level of passion that helped make him one of the most successful coaches of all time.
And by “passion,” we mean Pitino is already lacing into his players. During one rough stretch of play for Panathinaikos, Pitino felt that there was too much standing around and not enough ball movement. He let the team hear about it with a fiery speech on the bench.
Pitino’s style of coaching may make it difficult for him to accomplish his long-term goal, but he’s not going to change. As long as it works during his time in the EuroLeague, there should be opportunities for him to get back into coaching in the U.S.