NCAA legendary coach Rick Pitino, who has a contract with the Greek national team, said in two interviews this weekend he is ready to fly to Greece to coach Panathinaikos if the 2019-2020 Euroleague continues this summer. He also reiterated his will to coach Greece.
Speaking on Open TV and on ERA Sport radio, Pitino said “I wanted to coach the national team, and I will do. That was my goal. I could not wait to coach that team,” he said referring to his opportunity to have Giannis Antetokounmpo in his team and make him reach his NBA standards while playing for Greece too.
“I’d be happy to help Greece in any way I can, because I consider it my second home,” said the 67-year-old coach: “I intend to come in July so that we start preparing to go to the Olympic Games.”
Pitino made no secret of his admiration for Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiakos, the archrivals of Panathinaikos. The American coach went as far as saying “I want him to lead the team. Spanoulis is very important for me, and I will make him an offer he cannot refuse,” obviously envisaging Spanoulis combining with Giannis for Greece.
He also said he originally did not want to coach Panathinaikos for a second time this season, because he felt the roster matched his requirements, but was persuaded to return for a second spell at the Greens by Nick Calathes and some other players. “Because of my love [for Panathinaikos] I made this decision,” Pitino said.
He went on to assure that if Panathinaikos calls him up to coach the team for Euroleague playoffs he would board on the next plane to Greece. “But I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” he added.
While the Greek league has ended early, the Euroleague is about to decide by May 24 how it will end the season.