John Calipari and Rick Pitino were longtime rivals at Louisville and Kentucky, but now that Pitino is no longer the coach of the Cardinals, Calipari wants him to receive some recognition in Lexington.
Kentucky hosted Utah on Saturday and won 88-61 at Rupp Arena. Pitino’s 1993 Kentucky team that went to the Final Four was recognized throughout the day, though Pitino did not attend. Calipari said that he reached out to Pitino and asked him to attend, but Pitino had a previous commitment.
“He was with family and he had things going on but I said, ‘Look, you need to get up here. This will be respectful here.’ What that program did to change this back, we should recognize it. You may be mad he went to coach Louisville. So what? When he was here and we needed this program on a different track, he put it and that group, and I thanked that group last night,” Calipari said, via Kentucky Sports Radio.
Pitino did send a tweet to congratulate the team.
Congrats 93 UK team! Proud of you guys and love the hell out of you. Thx Cal for reaching out. Much appreciated.
Pitino coached Kentucky from 1989-1997. He made three Final Fours, winning one championship. Kentucky also won the title under Tubby Smith the season after Pitino left for the NBA. But Pitino crossed Kentucky fans when he went to rival Louisville and coached the Cardinals from 2001-2017. That rivalry is a big deal, as Calipari will tell you.
Maybe Pitino feels more time needs to pass for Kentucky fans to welcome him again.
“I just want to be a part of an organization,” Pitino said. “I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I’m using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I’d have deep interest in it.”
Pitino said he believes the NBA is getting younger, meaning player development has become more important than ever. The 66-year-old feels he can help a franchise with that. He has hired highly-regarded NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus to help him pursue the goal, and Pitino says he will not be looking for a job that allows him to be a coach and front office executive.
“I’m not looking for any of that (power/control) at this stage of my life,” he told Wojnarowski. “I want to develop teams and develop players and build a winner. I value analytics. I want to fit into an organization. At this stage, that’s all I’m interested in.”
Having last coached in the NBA with the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, Pitino is viewed by many as someone whose ego is better suited for the collegiate level. The results support that, as he was 102-46 in three-plus seasons with the Celtics and never panned out. As a college coach, Pitino won two national championships and reached the Final Four five times.
Several NBA front office executives told Wojnarowski that they would be hesitant to hire Pitino out of fear he would be difficult to co-exist with, especially during a rebuild.
The 66-year-old was at Louisville from 2001-2017. His Cardinals reached the Final Four three times, including one championship win. But Pitino was fired amid allegations of paying a recruit. Those allegations came after he was already in trouble over a sex scandal two years prior.
Rick Pitino was forced out at Louisville after the program found itself at the center of a federal investigation into corruption within college basketball, and there has been speculation that he could end up coaching elsewhere. If the Hall of Famer is telling the truth, there is no chance of that happening.
“I am looking for another passion — I don’t know what that is, I don’t know where it will direct me … but it’s not in coaching,” he said. “I just don’t want the stress of what happened the last few years with the NCAA, with the FBI — I just don’t want it anymore.”
Pitino has been promoting his new book, entitled “Pitino: My Story.” He has been heavily criticized for blaming everyone but himself for his ouster at Louisville in the book, including when he talks about Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin being at odds with former Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich. Bevin fired back last month by calling Pitino a “bitter person” who can’t accept responsibility for his own actions.
Louisville was accused of making illegal payments to players while Pitino was at the helm, but the former coach has denied having any involvement. The Cardinals also had to vacate their 2013 national championship over a prositution scandal involving recruits.
Disgraced Louisville coach Rick Pitino is out with a new book that seems to blame everyone but himself for his ouster at Louisville — including the Governor of Kentucky.
In “Pitino: My Story,” which the ex-coach is promoting, Pitino claims that Gov. Matt Bevin was at odds with former Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich, claiming that Bevin did not see eye-to-eye with the AD over issues relating to both the arena and the school’s Adidas contract. Pitino argues that Bevin wanted Jurich out of his role — and Pitino as well by extension, as the coach was an ally of the athletic director.
Bevin responded Wednesday in no uncertain terms.
“Here’s a guy who also excelled at many levels, both at UK and at U of L — not so much, a little bit of a sad chapter there with the Celtics — but in general a guy who has been up and down and mostly up,” Bevin told NewsRadio 840 WHAS, via Jared Peck of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “And now, he just sounds like a desperate, angry, bitter person, who wants to lay blame everywhere but at his own feet, which is where, frankly, so much of it belongs.”
Pitino was brought down by allegations of illegal payments to players, which he has denied knowing about. In general, he has cast blame elsewhere for the scandal and fallout, even though the federal indictments in the case tell a very different story than what Pitino has sold.
Rick Pitino may be getting an opportunity to land back on his feet in the Horizon League.
Tony Paul of the Detroit News reported on Monday that the former Louisville coach has been contacted by the University of Detroit Mercy about their head coaching vacancy. Paul does add though that the university’s search to fill the position is “all over the map.”
Detroit Mercy is a private Roman Catholic school that produced well-known NBA players such as Dave DeBusschere and Spencer Haywood back in the day as well as lesser-known ones like Willie Green and Ray McCallum in more recent years. They finished last season with a miserable 8-24 record though and fired head coach Bacari Alexander after two years at the helm as a result.
As for Pitino, he has been vocal about his desire to continue coaching but is probably too disgraced to land a job at a bigger university. He was also recently linked to an opening at another mid-major school.
Rick Pitino is still desperate to get back into college basketball coaching, even at the lower levels of the sport.
According to Pitino business associate Roddy Valente, Pitino would be interested in discussing the coaching vacancy at Siena.
“He basically said given the opportunity, he would love to sit down and explore coaching at Siena,” Valente said Sunday, via Mark Singelais of the Albany Times-Union. “He loves to coach. He said Siena would be a good fit. He loves the area. He’s turned down two jobs because of where they were located. He loves the Capital Region.”
The Siena job is available after Jimmy Patsos resigned amid allegations that he physically and mentally abused players.
Normally, a name like Pitino being interested in Siena would be a no-brainer worth pursuing. Of course, the Saints would have to decide if they want to deal with Pitino’s potentially major issues. He has maintained his innocence, but it remains to be seen if Siena pursues this.