Exiled Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino is again seeking a full-time NBA job after turning down a lucrative offer to return to the European team he just led to a Greek League championship, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The 66-year-old accepted a job with Greek League powerhouse Panathinaikos in December, more than a year after he was effectively fired from the University of Louisville amid an FBI investigation into another recruiting scandal in his program.
Pitino led Panathinaikos to its third consecutive Greek League title and 37th overall. He also steered the franchise to a sixth-place finish in the EuroLeague playoffs.
In the immediate aftermath of last week’s championship, Pitino said he would return to the United States and weigh with his family the possibility of returning to Greece.
“If you asked me a couple of days ago, then I’d tell you that it’s just 5 percent I’ll stay with Panathinaikos,” Pitino told reporters, according to Eurohoops.net. “Now, it’s 50-50. We met with Dimitris [Giannakopoulos, the team owner of Panathinaikos] and he presented me the budget for next season. I cried. And I asked him why you are doing this, putting 10 or 12 million euros out of your pocket? He said to me: ‘Coach, that’s my legacy from my father. And I know that others can pay you more, but if I could, I would give you triple times the money.’ You know I am old. And that struck a chord with me. I am at a point in my life that the issue is not money.”
Pitino left the college coaching ranks following a series of high-profile scandals. There was the extortion attempt of Pitino resulting from an extramarital affair with the wife of Louisville’s equipment manager in 2003. Then, there was the escort sex scandal involving Cardinals recruits from 2010-14 that led to Pitino’s suspension, a postseason ban and the vacated 2013 NCAA championship. The 2017 FBI investigation into the relationship between Adidas executives and five-star Louisville recruit Brian Bowen was the final straw for Louisville at the school.
In October 2018, Pitino told ESPN that he was seeking a player-development role in the NBA for the first time since his stint as head coach and team president of the Boston Celtics came to a contentious end in 2001. He also served as head coach of the New York Knicks in the 1980s, leading the team to two playoff appearances.
"I just want to be a part of an organization," he told Wojnarowski in October. "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. I think the league is going to get younger and player development will become even more important to every organization. That's my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success."
Two months later, without an NBA job, he left for Greece, where his wild stint with Panathinaikos was chronicled in cinematic effect by The Ringer’s John Gonzalez. It was from there that Pitino declared his interest in returning to college, where he “would bring St. John’s to the elite level,” if only the Southern District of New York apologized for naming him in a complaint as part of the FBI recruiting investigation.
Now, apparently, he is back stateside in search of that same NBA advisory role.
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