Rick Pitino has landed.
The former Louisville coach who speculated he would never coach again arrived in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday morning and signed a contract to become the head coach of six-time Euroleague champion Panathinaikos.
“I have signed with Panathinaikos and I am ready for the challenge,” Pitino was quoted as saying to Eurohoops.net. “... I’m excited to be here. It’s the first time in 41 years as a coach that I will take up a team in the middle of the season.”
Photos posted on Twitter showed Pitino sporting a Panathinaikos scarf. He was also shown on the court later in the day leading his first practice.
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Panathinaikos stands 11th in the 16-team international EuroLeague with a 6-8 record. It is set to face third place CKSA Moscow (11-3) on Friday, but Pitino is not expected to be on the bench until its Sunday game against Promitheas Patras in a domestic league matchup.
“The first thing I’ll need to do is get to know the players well, see the team’s strong and weak points and then decide what we need,” Pitino was quoted as saying on Ekathimerini.com. “I know we got an issue with shooting and we need to create defenses that will make it hard for the opponent.”
Top European teams typically compete in both domestic and international leagues and competitions. Panathinaikos has won 37 Greek championships. The team is undefeated at 9-0 in the Greek Basket League this season.
Pitino led three different college teams to the NCAA Final Four with Providence, Kentucky and Louisville. He won national championships with the Cats and the Cardinals, although his Louisville title has been vacated by the NCAA for rules violations.