A little over a year ago — in September 2017 — legendary college basketball coach Rick Pitino was fired as head coach of the University of Louisville men’s basketball team after the program was linked to a federal investigation into fraud and corruption in college basketball recruiting.
In this time since his firing, Pitino has been making public appearances and suing those he believes have scorned him left and right, presumably in an effort to A) clear his name and B) get a new job.
Well, it appears that the Rick Pitino rehabilitation tour has worked … slightly. On Thursday, December 20, it was announced that Pitino has been hired to be the head coach of the Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. Pitino will make his first appearance as head coach of the EuroLeague giant on December 27.
Best of all, reports indicate that the ex-Louisville/Kentucky/Knicks/Celtics head coach took the European gig with the specific hopes of returning to the NBA as a head coach, according to ESPN.
The Athens team is expected to part ways with its coach Xavi Pascual to clear the way for Pitino, sources said.
Pitino recently told ESPN that he hoped for an opportunity to return to the NBA as a coach. He has been radioactive among NBA and major college basketball programs since his scandalous end at Louisville in October 2017, but modern basketball history regards him as one of the great teachers, tacticians and motivators in basketball.
Panathinaikos has started 6-7 in the EuroLeague, leaving the team in 10th place. The team’s owner, Dimitrios Giannakopoulos, has a volcanic reputation in Europe. He was fined 150,000 euros in 2015 for barging into the referee’s room and threatening to kill the officials and their families after a playoff victory over CSKA Moscow.
Pitino has coached in the NBA before, helming the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and the Boston Celtics from 1996 to 2001. Whether or not the league decides to let him back in is yet to be seen.