Rick Pitino Rumors
Pitino’s debut at the Pan Am Games in July underscored just how daunting a task he had undertaken. It featured a 92-59 drubbing at the hands of Brazil. Then came another 30-point plus loss to Team USA. However, since then that initial rag-tag Puerto Rican squad has been upgraded for the next week’s FIBA Americas Championship Olympic qualifier in Mexico City. But the reality is the team is overmatched. Just don’t tell that to Pitino. “I don’t regret this at all,” Pitino said. “Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] and Brett Brown both told me I’d learn a lot — and I have.”
While Pitino’s family couldn’t quite comprehend (and still can’t) his reasons for this summer-long commitment, Pitino decided to coach Puerto Rico for several reasons: (1) to learn new ideas; (2) the sheer challenge to get Puerto Rico into the Olympics and (3) it offered his new-look Louisville team valuable experience playing against a group of pros.
That summer, Pitino took the head-coaching job at University of Kentucky, where he later won a national championship. His Knicks’ 3-point-attempts record would stand untouched until five seasons later, when the Houston Rockets won back-to-back titles in the mid-90s, in part by embracing the shortened 3-point line. “In the beginning, everybody thought I was a mad scientist,” Pitino says of his use of the 3-pointer. “In the end, everybody realized how potent a weapon it was.”
“I think Billy and I have spoken about it over 30 or 40 times,” Pitino told Rome. “He’s very inquisitive and a very humble person and he’ll ask a lot of questions. I said, ‘Look, Billy, I really loved coaching the New York Knicks, and the reason I loved it is we won. I really did not like my Boston Celtic experience because we lost. Just don’t go into a situation where you’re hoping on the ping-pong balls falling your way. Go into a situation where you know you have players. Sort of like what Phil Jackson and Pat Riley have done in their career. Don’t leave college unless you can do that.’ He went into the perfect situation, perfect organization because of (Kevin) Durant, (Russell) Westbrook and the rest of those guys are all (a) very, very young basketball [team]. Billy Donovan is one of the best coaches and finest people I’ve ever encountered in my life so I know he’s going to do great.”