Rick Pitino picks up win in EuroLeague debut with Panathinaikos

Rick Pitino felt right at home during his debut in the EuroLeague with Panathinaikos on Friday. (Ayhan Mehmet/Getty Images)
Rick Pitino felt right at home during his debut in the EuroLeague with Panathinaikos on Friday. (Ayhan Mehmet/Getty Images)

Rick Pitino didn’t waste any time jumping back into the coaching game.

Pitino led his new team, Panathinaikos, to a 96-84 win over CSKA Moscow on Friday night, picking up a win in his EuroLeague debut.

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“It was a great team win,” Pitino said. “Defensively we had 30 deflections. We had seven turnovers. When you play that hard at the defensive end and only turn it over seven times, you really want to win. And I commend the players for their desire to win this game, because that’s an excellent team they beat tonight.”

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Pitino seemed right at home on the floor, too, and was seen getting after his team — which includes Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s older brother, former Florida guard Nick Calathes and former Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas, among others — during a timeout.

While coaching in the EuroLeague is certainly going to be extremely different than anything Pitino is used to from his time coaching in both the NBA and in college, he said coaching on Friday reminded him a lot of his time coaching at Kentucky.

“It reminded me of Kentucky, just like that,” Pitino said. “That’s the highest compliment I can give any crowd, because I’ve always felt in Kentucky basketball is a religion, and the fans tonight, they motivated us to play that type of defense … I’m really impressed. It’s an honor to coach this team.

Panathinaikos, which has won six EuroLeague titles since 1996 and a pair of consecutive Greek League titles, fired coach Xavi Pascual earlier this month after a rough start to the season that dropped them to 10th place in the EuroLeague standings.

Panathinaikos marks Pitino’s first coaching job since he was fired from Louisville in 2017 after a massive FBI investigation revealed his involvement in a pay-for-play scheme. While the 66-year-old was never indicted in the scandal, Louisville did violate NCAA rules under his watch. He, though, has long proclaimed his innocence, specifically in a new memoir he released earlier this year.

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