NCAA legendary coach Rick Pitino is returning to Greece to coach the Greek national team, in the hope his mandate is not restricted to the Olympic qualification tournament but also extends to Tokyo 2020.
The Pitino era for Greece started on Friday with the cordial agreement of the 67-year-old American coach and the president of the federation Giorgos Vassilakopoulos.
The two-hour meeting at the federation’s headquarters sealed the verbal agreement already reached before the arrival of the American coach in Athens.
“It is an honor to accept this position. I look forward to it. As soon as the groups of the [Olympic qualification tournaments] are announced on November 15 I’ll get down to work,” said Pitino, who will be formally presented on Monday.
“His presence in Europe last year and his name have led to choosing him. He is familiar with Greece and the players we have in Greece, in Europe and in the NBA,” said Vassilakopoulos.
“We have got Pitino because the bar is set high for the Olympic qualification tournament and we want to qualify. The federation is looking at how Greek basketball can fare better,” he added.
The meeting focused on the coaching team that will also include current coach Thanassis Skourtopoulos; he will have the role of the link with the players he has worked with over the last couple of years and will then coach at the 2021 Eurobasket qualifying.
Pitino also expressed his confidence that all US-bred players, such as Kosta Koufos and Tyler Dorsey, will be available, while the big question mark hangs over Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose NBA season may well stretch into June, when the Olympic qualification tournaments also begin.