But Friday, Pitino said he wasn’t totally sold on taking the job and that he needed to discuss the offer with his family over Christmas.
“I haven’t 100 percent taken the job," he said on the Dan Patrick radio show.
At 6-7, Panathinaikos is 10th of 16 teams in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Its roster includes former Maryland star James Gist, Kansas guard Keith Langford and Ohio State forward DeShaun Thomas, as well as forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Pitino, 66, was fired from Louisville in 2017 in connection to an FBI probe of the basketball program and a separate scandal that involved an assistant coach providing strippers for players and recruits in a university dormitory.
Pitino has insisted he did not know of the illegal behavior within the program, but the NCAA ruled otherwise, and forced Louisville to vacate 123 wins between 2012 and 2015, including the school’s 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance, and pay a $600,000 fine.
College basketball insiders and even some NBA executives at first thought Pitino would be unhireable as a head coach with the weight of the allegations against him. And Pitino, for close to a year after his removal at Louisville, contended he did not want to coach again.
But in October, he told ESPN, “I just want to be a part of an organization” and said that he’d been studying the NBA’s style of play.
“I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team,” he said. “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. That’s my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success.”
He’ll have a chance to help turn around Panathinaikos’s season. He’s set to join the team for its Dec. 28 game against CSKA Moscow. It’s the 15th game in a season of 30.
But Pitino will also have to contend with the team’s volatile owner, Dimitrios Giannakopoulos, during his half-season on the bench. The heir to a family pharmaceutical company, he’s been routinely sanctioned by EuroLeague for disrespecting officials and opponents.
In 2015, ESPN reported, he was fined 150,000 euros for storming into the referees' dressing room after a playoff victory and threatening to kill the officials and their families.
Including the vacated games, Pitino is 770-271 as a college coach. He also led the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and Boston Celtics from 1997 to 2001. He has a career 192-220 record in the NBA.
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