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.
A formal agreement is expected soon, sources told ESPN. Pitino is expected to travel to Athens and coach his first game shortly after Christmas. Pitino's goal has remained to return to the NBA, and this deal's term will be for the rest of the season. https://t.co/vkxwsMK9tS
Panathinaikos is the most storied and successful basketball team in Greece. They have won six EuroLeague championships and 36 Greek Basket League championships. In terms of head coaching jobs in Europe, there are few bigger ones.
As Wojnarowski notes, Pitino’s goal is still to coach again in the NBA. He recently said he misses coaching terribly and believes he could be an asset to an NBA franchise with the way the league is getting younger and placing an emphasis on player development.
Pitino, 66, said back in October that he is done coaching and doesn’t want the stress anymore, but he either just meant at the collegiate level or changed his mind. The Hall of Fame coach was pushed out at Louisville amid allegations of paying a recruit, and the program also had to vacate its 2013 national championship due to a sex scandal.
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.