Following a half season as president and coach for the EuroLeague’s Panathinaikos, former University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is seeking a new job.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday morning Pitino turned down an offer to return to Panathinaikos, where he coached his team to a Greek League championship last season.
Pitino is now eying a return to the NBA, he told Wojnarowski. Pitino last coached in the NBA in 2001 after four seasons with the Boston Celtics. Prior to becoming the coach at the University of Kentucky in 1989, he coached the New York Knicks for two years.
The 66-year-old Pitino is seeking a full-time job in the NBA, whether it be as a coach, or in a player personnel or advisory role, he told Wojnarowski.
He told Eurohoops.net last week he would return to Athens-based Panathinaikos if he got all of his children on board, but even then it was only a 50-50 chance he would be back.
In a statement he wrote on Twitter, Pitino said the past year had been incredible.
“Such an awesome country that will always hold a place in my heart,” Pitino said of Greece. “I will miss you all greatly, but I am returning home and looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
While Pitino coached Panathinaikos to the Greek Cup and Greek League championships, it wasn’t all positives for the longtime coach. Last month, he voiced his displeasure to The Associated Press about “self-centered and selfish” fans who smoke during games in Greece.
“I smoke cigars on a golf course, but there’s nobody else around. But you’re in an arena and 10,000 are smoking and the players are choking,” he said, according to the AP. “So, sooner or later, you’ve got to say: ‘Hey, man, we’re at an athletic event and I’m going to discipline myself and we’ll wait until halftime. But not when there are athletes and there are little kids who want to come to the game. But they don’t care about young people and the athletes who are breathing it in.’‘
His decision to coach in Greece came more than a year after being fired from Louisville in the wake of the college basketball corruption scandal. He told ESPN in October his hope was to become an NBA coach again.
Pitino won the national championship at Kentucky in 1996 and at Louisville in 2013. Louisville was ordered to vacate its 2013 championship as the result of NCAA violations.