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Jeff Eisenberg

Rick Pitino to the Nets? Intriguing but doubtful

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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There was a time when we could have taken Louisville's Rick Pitino at his word today when he unequivocally denied reports that he's interested in becoming the New Jersey Nets' next head coach.

Unfortunately, we have to approach these denials with a healthy dose of skepticism these days considering how such scenarios have played out in the past.

Remember then-Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban stepping to a podium and declaring, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach?" Or Cincinnati football coach Brian Kelly insisting he'd never even spoken to Notre Dame until he was on a plane to South Bend? Yeah, enough said.

Nonetheless, in the midst of his media blitz this afternoon to convince reporters, fans and future recruits he's staying put, Pitino made one comment that makes him more believable than others in his shoes.

Asked specifically by the Louisville Courier-Journal about the notion that he's "worn down" from an offseason extortion case that revealed a steamy affair, Pitino took an unsolicited jab at the Nets.

"So what do you do when you're tired and worn out?" Pitino said. "You don't go to the Caribbean, you don't go to the Bahamas, you take the New Jersey Nets job where they've won four games.

"Just think of the rationale behind the whole thing. If you're going to get rejuvenated you don't take over the Nets."

That quote registered with me. You don't go out of your way to insult potential future employers like that unless you're either not interested in the job or confident you're not going to get it.

What doesn't make sense is why people find it so far-fetched that Pitino might have inquired through back channels about the Nets' job?

At Louisville, Pitino is as famous for his affair as basketball, he's greeted with chants of "Karen Sypher" at every visiting arena and he now must contend with John Calipari's suddenly resurgent Kentucky team down the road.

And yes, the Nets are awful — historically so even — but soon they'll have a new deep-pocketed owner, loads of salary cap room, a new Brooklyn arena and possibly the draft rights to John Wall or Evan Turner. Suddenly the NBA has never looked better, has it?

Bottom line? Pitino's comments make me think he's staying at Louisville, where he has a strong incoming recruiting class next year and the No. 1 class in 2011 already committed. But if for some reason the Nets come calling with loads of cash and a long-term contract this spring, Pitino would be silly not to listen.

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