Rick Pitino

And-Ones: Belgian League, Clark, Pitino, NCAA Brackets

Belgium’s EuroMillions League has canceled the rest of its season in an effort to curtail the rampant spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, according to Sportando’s Nicola Lupo.

The EuroMillions League has named the team with the best record (13-4), FILOU Oostende, as its national champion. This is an intriguing step, and one several other leagues (like the NCAA) have yet to implement.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Wes Clark, a guard for Italy’s Serie A League team Pallacanestro Cantù, has returned home to the U.S. from Italy following the suspension of the season, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. The 6’0″ Clark is an alum of Missouri and Buffalo.
  • Newly-minted Iona College head coach Rick Pitino still intends to coach Greece’s national team for the June Olympic qualifier in British Columbia, Pitino told Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Prior to his NCAA return, Pitino had served as head coach of the Greek EuroLeague club Panathinaikos since 2018.
  • The NCAA has decided not to release what would have been this year’s March Madness brackets, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reports (Twitter link). NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt emailed all coaches relaying this decision. “To be clear, this is my decision,” Gavitt said in his message. “The basketball committees support and concur.”

And-Ones: Mannion, Beilein, WNBA, Pitino

Arizona point guard Nico Mannion, one of the top college players in the country, has not made a decision on whether or not his first season as a Wildcat will be his last, despite reports to the contrary, per Sam Vecenie of The Athletic (Twitter link).

“He will make that decision after the season,” the 19-year-old’s father Pace Mannion told Vecenie on March 8. With the NCAA season officially canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that determination may be coming up sooner than the Mannion family was anticipating.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • After resigning as Cavaliers head coach last month, John Beilein was hired as an analyst for the Big Ten Network studio team ahead of the anticipated start of the Big Ten Conference Tournament and March Madness, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. With the NCAA season canceled, Beilein may not have much to analyze for a while. Though Beilein is the winningest coach in Michigan basketball history, he struggled in the NBA, coaching the Cavaliers to a 14-40 record during 2019/20.
  • Rick Pitino will return to college coaching at Iona College, per Forbes’ Adam Zagoria.“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College,” Pitino said. Pitino has been coaching Greek EuroLeague club Panathinaikos since 2018. He last coached in the NCAA for the University of Louisville from 2001-2017.
  • WNBA executive director Terri Jackson spoke with Mark Medina of USA Today about the coronavirus and president Donald Trump’s travel ban precluding foreign nationals from traveling to the US from most European countries. Several WNBA players spend their offseasons overseas to supplement their earnings with more lucrative paydays from the international leagues. “Understanding [President Trump’s European] travel ban and understanding what came out of the White House is tough to grapple with,” Jackson told Medina.

And-Ones: LaMelo, Scouting, Pitino, Schedule Changes

LaMelo Ball is the top prospect for the 2020 draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. American fans haven’t seen much of the youngest Ball brother because he’s playing in Australia’s National Basketball League, but he’s making a strong impression on NBA scouts.

According to Givony, Ball’s assets include unusual size for a point guard at 6’7″, along with “impressive creativity, flair, poise and instincts operating off a live dribble.” He can pass with either hand and is especially skilled on the pick-and-roll. To improve his game, Givony believes Ball needs to become a more efficient scorer and show a stronger commitment to defense, but he still has the potential to become a franchise-altering player.

The rest of the top five includes Memphis center James Wiseman, Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, North Carolina guard Cole Anthony and combo guard R.J. Hampton, who is also playing in the ABL.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • This week normally marks the unofficial beginning of scouting season, but that’s changing because of the concept of “flight risk,” writes former league executive John Hollinger of The Athletic. Team officials who may be planning a trip to Australia to see Ball or Hampton in late December or January are taking the risk that they could shut down their seasons early to avoid injury if they believe their status as a high lottery pick is secure.
  • Some of the top players in Greece are refusing to play for the national team as long as Rick Pitino is the head coach of Panathinaikos, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Former NBA player Kostas Papanikolaou joined with Georgios Printezis and Antonis Koniaris to write a letter to the Greek federation, protesting Pitino’s recent return to their arch-rival and calling the situation “toxic.” Greece hasn’t earned a spot in the Olympics and will be part of a qualifying tournament in June.
  • Instead of making radical changes to the schedule and the playoffs, the NBA needs to do a better job of promoting its current product, contends Michael Lee of The Athletic. He observes that the league has large number of  “skilled, likable and marketable stars,” along with many international players to attract an overseas audience. Lee opposes a shortened schedule and an in-season tournament, and points out that reason behind declining ratings is that it’s easier than ever for fans to enjoy the league through highlights on social media without dedicating the time to watch a full game.

And-Ones: Africa, Pitino, Olympic Qualifiers

Last night’s matchup between the Sixers and Raptors highlighted the growing influence Africa is having on the NBA, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam both hail from Cameroon and were discovered through Basketball Without Borders.

“Just to have two guys who are on separate teams but at the top of their teams means everything,” Siakam said. “It just shows the amount of talent we have on the continent, and for Cameroon, it’s a blessing and we’re excited about it. To represent our country at such a high level, it’s amazing.”

Zillgitt notes that 12 African players made opening-night rosters and nearly 10% of the league has at least one parent who was born there. The NBA will continue to expand its outreach to the continent, with the Basketball Africa League scheduled to begin in March.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA and NCAA coach Rick Pitino has returned to Panathinaikos on a two-year contract, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Pitino led his team to the Greek Cup title last year as coach and team president, but left this summer in hopes of returning to the NBA.
  • The Olympic Qualifying Draw will take place tomorrow for teams that haven’t already secured a spot in the 2020 games, and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic knows that his nation’s path will be much smoother if it doesn’t have to face Slovenia with Luka Doncic. “There’s a lot at stake, and obviously it would be easier for us if we don’t play against him,” Bogdanovic said in an interview with Zurnal.rs (translated by Carchia). “But on the other hand we would love to see Doncic playing Olympic qualifiers here.” Belgrade will be among the four host cities for the tournaments, along with Victoria, Canada; Split, Croatia; and Kaunas, Lithuania.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks identifies a few under-the-radar moves that have made a difference in the first month of the season, including the Wizards adding Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner, the Heat keeping Goran Dragic, the Suns getting better-than-expected contributions from Aron Baynes and Jevon Carter, the Thunder landing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the impressive coaching jobs by Monty Williams in Phoenix and Ryan Saunders in Minnesota.

Rick Pitino Wants To Return To The NBA

Rick Pitino has declined a chance to return to his team in Greece and is hoping for another shot at the NBA, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Pitino confirmed that he has turned down an offer from Panathinaikos after leading the team to the Greek Cup title while serving as both coach and president. He will spend the summer trying to land an NBA job, either as a coach, a player personnel specialist or an advisor.

Pitino, 66, spent two years as head coach of the Knicks in the 1980s, then returned to the NBA with the Celtics nearly a decade later. He won a division title in New York and took the team to the playoffs in both seasons, but was less successful in Boston, resigning during the 2000/01 season and citing the difficulty of handling both coaching and front office responsibilities. His career record as an NBA coach is 192-220.

He is best known for his success in college, where he took teams to seven Final Fours and won titles at Kentucky and Louisville. However, his championship with the Cardinals and two of his Final Fours were vacated in the wake of scandal, and the school fired him in 2018 after an FBI investigation into NCAA recruiting practices.

Central Notes: Sabonis, Middleton, Griffin, Pitino

After giving Myles Turner a four-year, $70MM extension last summer, the Pacers will likely be reluctant to make a similar move this year with Domantas Sabonis, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Both players are primarily centers and it’s difficult to use them together in a league where downsizing is the trend. Sabonis is extension-eligible this summer and will hit free agency next year if the Pacers don’t work out a deal.

Coach Nate McMillan put Turner and Sabonis on the court together occasionally this year to gauge their effectiveness. That strategy worked during the regular season, Bontemps notes, as the Pacers outscored opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions, but the Celtics have exploited the pairing in the playoffs.

This offseason will be vital is charting the future in Indiana, where six key players will be unrestricted free agents. Starters Darren CollisonWesley MatthewsBojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young will be joined on the market by rotation members Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans. Bontemps notes that owner Herb Simon is reluctant to go into the luxury tax, so some difficult decisions will have to be made.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • Bucks swingman Khris Middleton, who is headed for a major payday in free agency, learned about the business side of the league as a rookie with the Pistons in 2013, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Detroit legend Tayshaun Prince was traded during the season, then Middleton got shipped to Milwaukee over the summer. “You get a reminder of what this league is about, how it’s a business and business decisions are made,” Middleton said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s all about the organization. You see stuff like that, right in front of your face, you always hear about it, but hey, you learn anything can happen in this league. You got to be prepared for it and be ready to move on.”
  • Blake Griffin returned to action last night, but he couldn’t help the Pistons overcome the Bucks, relays Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Griffin, who missed the first two games of the series with swelling and pain in his left knee, wore a heavy brace under a leg sleeve as he scored 27 points in 31 minutes.
  • The Cavaliers are denying a report that they have talked to Rick Pitino in their coaching search, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com“False. We are, respectfully, not interested in him at all,” a source told Fedor. “No conversations with him by (team chairman) Dan (Gilbert) or anyone else.”

International Notes: Kilpatrick, M. Williams, China, Pitino

Sean Kilpatrick received an offer to play for Panathinaikos is Greece, but turned it down as he waits for another NBA opportunity, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. The news was first reported by George Zakkas of SDNA.

Saturday marked the first day that NBA teams could offer 10-day contracts, and Kilpatrick, who has gone that route with four organizations, is hoping it will be his way back into the league. He played for four teams last season, starting the year with the Nets before being waived in December. He signed a two-way deal with the Bucks later that month and was converted to a regular NBA contract before being waived in March. He signed a pair of 10-day deals with the Clippers, then finished the season with the Bulls before they waived him over the summer.

The 29-year-old averaged 6.3 points per game last season, including 15.4 PPG in nine games with Chicago.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Matt Williams, who started last season as a two-way player with the Heat, has reached an agreement with GS Kymis in Greece, Lupo notes in a separate story. Williams began this  season with KTP Basket in Finland. He got into just three games with Miami before being waived in December of 2017.
  • The Lakers and Nets will play a pair of preseason games in China, according to an ESPN report. The contests are set for October 10 in Shanghai and October 12 in Shenzhen. It will be the third appearance in China for LeBron James and possibly the fourth for Lance Stephenson, who will set a record if he remains on the roster.
  • In the wake of Steve Alford’s firing at UCLA, a group of boosters is targeting Panathinaikos coach Rick Pitino, writes Adam Zagoria for Forbes. Pitino made his debut with the Greek team late last month and is under contract for the rest of the season, so the move couldn’t take effect until the 2019/20 season. A source tells Zagoria that Pitino is “very interested” in taking over the Bruins. Approval from the UC Board of Regents is seen as the main obstacle in light of Pitino’s dismissal from Louisville amid his alleged role in an NCAA scandal. Murray Bartow is serving as interim coach at UCLA.

And-Ones: Pitino, Giannis, A. Davis, 2019 Draft

Former Celtics and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is making a coaching comeback, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Agent Drew Rosenhaus tells Wojnarowski that Pitino has agreed to a deal to coach Greek club Panathinaikos for the rest of the 2018/19 season. He’s expected to make his debut on December 27.

Pitino’s lengthy stint at Louisville came to an abrupt end in 2017 as a result of the FBI’s probe into college basketball recruiting. He had spent most of the last two decades heading up the program, having previously coached the Celtics from 1997 to 2001. Since leaving Louisville, Pitino has been looking to re-enter the coaching ranks in the NBA, telling Wojnarowski earlier in the fall that he just wants to be “a part of an organization.”

“I want to develop young players,” Pitino said in October. “I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I’m using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I’d have deep interest in it.”

While his new job isn’t an NBA position, Pitino is hoping that Panathinaikos can be a stepping stone back to the NBA, writes Wojnarowski. He’ll take over a club that ranks 10th in EuroLeague play so far, with a 6-7 record.

Former NBA players Nick Calathes, Georgios Papagiannis, and Keith Langford are among the players on Pitino’s new roster, along with Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Here are a few more basketball odds and ends:

  • Asked whether he’s ever had an issue like the Suns, Grizzlies, and Wizards did last week, when there was confusion over which “Brooks” was involved in a proposed trade, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told NBC Sports Boston that he has. “With the same team, by the way, that was involved [in last week’s failed three-team trade],” Grousbeck said. “That’s another story – that I’m not going to tell.” Grousbeck didn’t go into any more detail, so it’s not entirely clear which of the three teams he was referring to.
  • In the wake of LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo openly recruiting Anthony Davis to their respective teams, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores whether their comments constitute tampering, and whether commissioner Adam Silver is likely to step in.
  • Speaking of Antetokounmpo and Davis, they’re the NBA’s two most valuable trade chips, in the view of Bill Simmons of The Ringer, who ranked his top 55 players in the league in terms of trade value.
  • SI.com’s Jeremy Woo has published his latest 2019 mock draft, with Duke prospects holding the top three spots.

Rick Pitino Hoping For Return To NBA

Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino plans to use the 2018/19 season to “immerse himself” in the NBA game in the hopes of returning to the league’s coaching ranks, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski details, Pitino would like to become a candidate for NBA head coaching positions that open up in the spring of 2019.

“I just want to be a part of an organization,” Pitino told Wojnarowski. “I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I’m using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I’d have deep interest in it.

“I think the league is going to get younger and player development will become even more important to every organization,” Pitino continued. “That’s my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success.”

Pitino’s time at Louisville came to an abrupt end about a year ago as a result of the FBI’s probe into college basketball recruiting. Pitino had spent most of the last two decades heading up the program, having previously coached the Celtics from 1997 to 2001.

We heard as recently as September that Pitino appeared to have given up on the idea of returning to the NBA — he admitted in his book, “Pitino: My Story,” that his agent had reached out to NBA teams but had generated no interest. The veteran coach seems to be approaching the idea with renewed enthusiasm now though, with Wojnarowski reporting that Pitino has hired NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus to represent him.

Even if NBA front offices overlook the multiple scandals that took place at Louisville during Pitino’s tenure, it will likely be difficult for him to convince an NBA team that he’d be a “willing partner with a front office,” Wojnarowski writes. According to Woj, multiple GMs say they’d be reluctant to hire Pitino due to concern about coexisting with him, especially during a rebuilding process. For his part, Pitino is saying the right things.

“I’m not looking for any of that [power/control] at this stage of my life,” Pitino told Wojnarowski. “I want to develop teams and develop players and build a winner. I value analytics. I want to fit into an organization. At this stage, that’s all I’m interested in.”

And-Ones: Pitino, Free Agents, Team Canada

A return to the NBA doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Rick Pitino, who coached the Celtics from 1997 to 2001 before spending most of the last two decades with Louisville. Having been dismissed from Louisville after the program was investigated by federal prosecutors for potential recruiting violations, Pitino writes in his new book, “Pitino: My Story,” that no NBA doors have opened lately.

“Since leaving Louisville, my agent has reached out when NBA openings have surfaced,” Pitino wrote, per Jeff Greer of The Louisville Courier Journal. “We couldn’t even get an interview. I can’t blame the general managers who turned me down. Louisville fired me so abruptly, it instantly created the impression that I must be guilty of something.”

Asked today on Good Morning America if he wants to coach again, Pitino replied, “I don’t. It’s over for me, I know that” (video link).

Here are a few more items from around the basketball universe:

  • Veterans like Dwyane Wade, Rodney Hood, and Jamal Crawford may be the most notable free agents still available, but they’re hardly the only ones capable of helping an NBA team. Mark Deeks of GiveMeSport examines 30 unsigned players who are candidates to land on NBA rosters.
  • In an entertaining column for The Advocate, Scott Kushner makes his case for why the NBA season should start its season on Christmas Day, pushing the playoffs deeper into the summer.
  • Team Canada’s training camp roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers features a handful of NBA players, including Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), Cory Joseph (Pacers), and Khem Birch (Magic).
  • In a reversal of roles, Damian Lillard broke some news regarding Chris Haynes today, tweeting that the veteran reporter will be leaving ESPN for Yahoo, where he’ll become the Senior NBA Insider and will help build the site’s NBA team. Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania, and Bobby Marks have left Yahoo within the last year and a half.