BOZICH | Pitino's best bet is college, not NBA
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The risk in writing a column about Rick Pitino telling the world that he’s ready to return to coaching in the NBA is before I get to the final paragraph there will be 17 reasons to start re-writing.
I’m going to Michigan. I can’t wait to coach Louisville.
This is my final interview. I’ll do your radio show.
Twitter is garbage. I’ll open an account and ring up nearly 33,000 followers.
I’m not going to coach again (as reported by ESPN Sept. 5).
I’ve hired an agent and called the most plugged-in reporter in basketball because I want to come back to the NBA (as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski on multiple ESPN platforms 54 days later).
I’d better stop my research and type faster.
I asked four coaches with experience in the NBA and college basketball to assess the odds of Pitino getting his third crack at coaching in The Association.
The optimist in the group said 40 percent.
“He’s still very respected as a game coach,” he said. “Some people think he’s as good as anybody doing that. He knows how to get teams to win. He’s one of the best at scouting and game-planning.”
I said 25 percent or less.
Three other coaches took the “or less.”
“I don’t think there is an appetite for his personality,” said one.
“He will coach in college again. Somebody will be desperate. A bad high major. Or a very good mid-major.”
“I don’t see it happening,” said a former NBA head coach. “The reason is how he did in Boston (41 percent winning percentage in 3 1/2 seasons) and what he did to the organization.”
“He will not be a head coach but he could work in player development,” said another coach. “Maybe.”
Pitino getting an NBA job would be the best thing to happen to the University of Louisville. It would slow the constant nationally publicized mentions of the colossal mess his program left for Chris Mack to clean up while Mack tries to win in the most challenging conference in college basketball.
I’m not going to say that Louisville could move on and Pitino could move on if Pitino gets a coaching job because it’s not that simple. That won't happen until the coach and school resolve the lawsuit between the two warring parties. They’re a long way from the handshake stage.
Pitino coaching elsewhere would accelerate the process.
But on Oct. 29, balls are bouncing everywhere, and Pitino does not have out of bounds plays to call for the second consecutive season. He misses that. Terribly. Twitter and a podcast are a poor consolation prize to a competitor.
He’s made a tour of college campuses this fall to check on friends and former associates who have teams to run. As he should. The man is 66. He thinks the on-the-court stuff with the best of them. He can help his friends and former assistants.
But no way that can satisfy a guy who has always burned 93 octane coaching fuel.
No matter how many times Rick Pitino said he was not walking through that coaching door, the wise money always believed he was thirsty for the telephone to ring.
Now he’s gone to the reporter with the biggest microphone in the game and connected with a new agent to get the attention of the NBA.
He’s made himself national talk show material and probably earned 90 seconds of debate between Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on “Pardon the Interruption,” Monday
It will be a topic. It will be discussed. But I’m not forecasting an offer. I agree with the three coaches who said they don’t believe it will happen.
It did not work in Boston. It was an expensive failure. It sort of worked (one good season) in New York.
Pitino loves control. He said he only wants to coach, not run a team. But, in case you haven’t heard, he says a lot of things. Pitino thrives on control. What NBA general manager will be eager to add “Manage Rick Pitino,” to his list of things to do?
Pitino’s way is not the way of the top coaches in the league these days. Not Steve Kerr. Not Brad Stevens. Not Dwane Casey. Not Quin Snyder.
In the NBA, the players are the featured attraction. Players get fans into the arena, even in spots like Cleveland, which has already fired its coach and needs something to sell now that LeBron James has left home again.
I agree with the coach who said college basketball is the more likely Pitino path.
It isn’t going to be a smooth and direct path because of all the circumstances that surrounded Pitino’s departure from Louisville, a program that had an NCAA championship vacated and earned NCAA probation.
But Larry Brown got back in the college game. So did Bruce Pearl. So have others.
There will be a program that will determine hiring Rick Pitino will be their only opportunity to have a Hall of Fame coach who can stir an avalanche of publicity and make a run in March.
Unless, of course, Pitino has changed his mind and said that he is finished coaching before I got this column posted.
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