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Rick Pitino is leaving Panathinaikos, the team he coached to a Greek League championship this season, he told ESPN on Friday.
The Hall of Famer said he turned down an offer to return as the franchise’s president and head coach in order to pursue a job in the NBA, either in coaching or in a player personnel or advisory role.
Pitino, 66, was fired after a long run at Louisville following an FBI probe into college basketball recruiting. He coached the Cardinals from 2001 until the end of the 2016-17 season, taking the program through three conference changes (Conference USA, Big East and ACC) while posting a 416-143 record.
Pitino, who also coached at Hawaii, Boston University, Providence and Kentucky, has 770 career college victories over 1,041 games, winning an NCAA title in 1996 with Kentucky and 2013 with Louisville.
Back in October, Pitino first expressed his interest in returning to the NBA.
“I just want to be a part of an organization,” he told ESPN. “I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I’m using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I’d have deep interest in it.
“I think the league is going to get younger and player development will become even more important to every organization. That’s my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success.”
Pitino has not worked in the NBA for almost two decades. He compiled a 192-220 record as head coach of the New York Knicks (1987-89) and Boston Celtics (1997-2001).
With the Celtics, Pitino also was handed personnel control and the title of team president. He said he wouldn’t insist on a front-office role this time around.
“I’m not looking for any of that at this stage of my life,” Pitino told ESPN in October. “I want to develop teams and develop players and build a winner. I value analytics. I want to fit into an organization. At this stage, that’s all I’m interested in.”
–Field Level Media