Rick Pitino is back in the coaching world after settling to take over as head coach of Greece’s national team.
This marks Pitino’s first head-coaching gig since he turned down an offer to return to Panathinaikos in June. He went 10-9 and made the playoffs before being swept 3-0 by Real Madrid in his lone season with the team.
The 67-year-old American coached Greek club Panathinaikos last season and guided the team to victory in the country’s cup competition before returning to the United States. He persists popular among Greek fans despite his outspoken criticism of smoking and rowdy behavior by spectators at games.
Pitino has served as head coach of the Puerto Rican national team in 2015 for the FIBA Americas Championships. That squad progressed to the second round in the tournament but was unable to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Per Dionysis Aravantinos of EuroHoops.net, Thanasis Skourtopoulos will remain as Greece’s head coach for the EuroBasket tournament in February with Pitino taking over for the pre-Olympic tournament in the summer as the country attempts to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
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Taking over the Greek squad could give Pitino an opportunity to coach reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who most recently played for his home country this summer in the FIBA World Cup.
The Greek basketball federation said Friday that Pitino will be formally presented on Monday, when details of his agreement will be announced.
”Really honored to be coaching the Greek National team,” Pitino wrote on Twitter. ”Have a lot of work and preparation ahead but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo both play for Greece and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Greeks narrowly missed out on reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup in China in September. Pitino spent much of his career jumping between the college ranks and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville.
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