LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The departure of LeBron James left a super-sized, 63-loss mess with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second-worst record in the NBA this season. From the NBA Finals to irrelevance.
Maybe Rick Pitino will be the guy to fix it. He’s never been irrelevant.
After reportedly trying and failing to get in the serious discussions for college openings at UNLV, UCLA and St. John’s, likely because of his dismissal at Louisville in 2017, Pitino has reportedly talked to Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert about the Cleveland head coaching position.
The reported part should be attributed to Peter Vecsey, the long-time Hall of Fame reporter for NBC Sports and the New York Post. Vecsey now writes for Patreon.
Dan Gilbert and Rick Pitino have spoken about Cavaliers’ coaching vacancy: https://t.co/MnaPpaojkH— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) April 21, 2019
Without James, Kyrie Irving or much veteran talent, Cleveland could use the sizzle and coaching Pitino would provide.
Without a shot at college basketball because of multiple scandals at U of L, Pitino could use the Cavs to deliver a different ending to his Hall of Fame career.
Pitino led Panathinaikos to a Greek Cup victory and his team is currently competing in EuroLeague playoffs. He will turn 67 in September.
Sounds like a reasonable marriage.
It did not take Twitter long to react.
If Cleveland recruits Pitino it would be his third run through the NBA Eastern Conference.
He had two solid seasons with the Knicks, including a playoff series victory, before departing for Kentucky in 1989. After eight remarkable seasons in Lexington that included a national title in 1996 and two Final Fours, he left for a huge contract to run the Boston Celtics in 1997.
That did not go well. The Celtics never made the playoffs, in part because Boston lost the top pick in the 1997 NBA draft lottery to San Antonio.
The Spurs drafted Tim Duncan, and Gregg Popovich started rolling to five NBA titles.
Pitino, the Celtics' coach and general manager, selected Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer — and the Celtics never regained the glory of the Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale era, as Pitino once famously noted.
Pitino was gone about 3 1/2 seasons into his 7-year contract — and on his way to Louisville in March 2001.
The next 16 seasons were filled with conference titles, three Final Fours and the first vacated Division I title in NCAA men’s basketball history.
After surviving a scandal involving an affair and extortion trial as well as another that featured strippers and prostitutes in the players’ dorm at U of L, Pitino was fired by the school in October 2017 after the school’s link to the federal pay for play scandal in college basketball.
Pitino has steadfastly said he did not pay any recruits or break NCAA rules.
That should not matter to the NBA and Cavaliers. Winning games and creating interest should.
After James jumped to the Lakers as a free agent last summer, the Cavs slipped from 50-32 to 19-63 this season. They lost their last 10 games.
Attendance also declined from 20,562 to 19,349 per game as Cleveland dropped from second to eighth in the league in that category. The team ended its relationship with coach Larry Drew at the end of the season.
Pitino's name at not been mentioned at Cleveland.com, the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. In one story about the coaching search Sunday morning, the only names noted as candidates were two NBA assistants, including former Michigan star Juwan Howard, who works for the Miami Heat.
Maybe Pitino is the guy who will get the chance to stop that slide.
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