Rick Pitino is no stranger to controversy.  The “two time” NCAA National Championship coach, of course, had his 2013 title stripped with Louisville following an escort sex scandal involving his players.  He was also thrown into accusations of bribing players to join the team.  Interestingly enough, that 2013 team included two significant NBA players in Charlotte Hornets point guard Terry Rozier and LA Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell.  The team also had Kevin Ware who we all remembered suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in college basketball history.  Rick Pitino is the only head coach in NCAA history to lead three separate teams to the final four (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville).  In 2017 he was fired from Louisville.  As of December 2019, Mr. Pitino has been the head coach of Greek team Panathinaikos B.C. and also the Greek national team’s head coach.  In his first season as head coach of Panathinaikos, he claimed the title of the Greek Basketball Cup.  His team sports notable NBA names such as Jimmer Fredette and former Clipper Wesley Johnson.  Rick Pitino joined hosts Sharp and Shapiro to talk UNLV, NCAA, NBA, and coaching overseas.

“I think everyone is afraid of what is happening over in LA, both with the Clippers and Lakers [in regard of to all the NBA trades this offseason and Russel Westbrook going to Houston].  Houston’s owner is a very strong owner and he wants to make it happen while Harden is still in his prime.  You probably have the most dynamic backcourt in the NBA”.

The parity in the NBA’s offseason could not be understated. Rick Pitino was spot on with this analysis.  Every team had the right to be very afraid of what happened in LA.  As of December 2nd, 2019, the Lakers are first in the Western Conference followed closely by the third seed Clippers. It would hard to argue against the backcourt of Westbrook and Harden not being the most explosive duo in the league.  The idea that Westbrook would take away from Harden’s productivity can be put to rest.  Harden is averaging a career high 38.9 points to go along with 7.8 assists and 5.9 rebounds.  This article is being written just days after Harden’s 60 points in 31 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks on November 30th, 2019.

“The downfall was Paul Pierce getting stabbed 11 times and almost losing his life [reminiscing on his time with Boston in from 1997-2001].  Honestly, I gave up on Chauncey Billups too early.”

Hindsight is a hell of a drug.  In this case, it may be the weakest spot on his resume.  In all fairness, Paul Pierce was almost murdered.  In addition, that 2001 roster’s second best player was Joe Johnson.  The Eastern conference was also led by powerhouse Allen Iverson’s 76ers and Milwaukee Bucs’ Ray Allen/Glenn Robinson.  Had the Celtics not given up on 3rd overall pick Chauncey Billups after just one season we could be telling a completely different story. The five-time All-Star went on to win Final MVP 6 years after being traded in addition to various spots on the All-NBA teams.  It’s not like the Celtics went on to dominate the league after Pitino was fired.  It would take them 7 years after his departure to capture a title against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“The only one who contacted me was Marvin Menzies” [in regards to the UNLV head coaching vacancy]. You want me to tweet out that I have absolutely no interest in the job? I would have never had any interest in coaching the team”.

Coach Pitino went on to say he would coach in the U.S. again if it was a place he had never lived before if the money is right.  Scandals are easy to forget when you are great at what you do.  He also claims that the NCAA has not fully investigated whether he was guilty or not.  That means that any college program asking to hire him would have to initiate that long-term battle.  No matter the case, he has shown clear interest in returning. He is undeniably one of the winningest head coaches of all time.  Whether it be overseas or at the highest level, he brings a team success.  Let us not forget he coached the Knicks to a division title in 1987.  The same Knicks who are touting the second worst record in the NBA currently.

“Well right now they (athletes) can get up to 8-10 thousand dollars [on whether NCAA should or will pay athletes].  Here is what is going to happen.  The NBA is going to allow kids to go right to the NBA.  If they (NCAA) don’t allow kids to start selling their images, then everyone is going to go to Greece, G League, etc. but they don’t recognize it.  They need to get together and decide what they need to do (the NCAA) to let kids go to college and pay them.”

Coach Pitino is very a progressive coach. He, along with most of the biggest coaches involved in the game, realize there is no NCAA without the top athletes in the league.  These kids are not making any money while the colleges make unimaginable amounts of money off of them.  In October 2019, multiple reports came out detailing NCAA’s plan to allow college athletes to get paid for their likeness.  It would appear Mr. Pitino was on the right side of history.  If he does come back to college, this certainly will not hurt his recruiting efforts. Any player on his team will also get more national attention than most teams in the country regardless of how successful his team is.

Want to hear this full interview or anything Vegas Take related? Just look up “Vegas Take” anywhere you listen to the podcasts.

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