Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is denying reports that he has “reached out” to the New Jersey Nets regarding their head coaching job.
Pitino found himself back in the news Thursday when the New York Daily News reported the former Celtics coach contacted Nets officials recently to make himself a candidate for their head coaching position, a job currently held by former NBA player Kiki Vandeweghe, who is the team’s GM as well as interim coach following the November dismissal of Lawrence Frank.
Later Thursday morning, ESPN reported that Pitino told reporter Pat Forde he has not made any overtures for the job and has no interest in returning to the NBA.
The Daily News story, as well as ESPN, reported that Nets president Rod Thorn denied having any contact with Pitino. Multiple reports indicated both men attended the funeral of Knicks Hall of Famer Dick McGuire earlier this week.
Earlier Thursday, ESPN reported that Pitino’s “people” may have reached out to incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire who is expected to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors next month.
It’s understandable that Pitino, who coached both the Knicks and the Celtics, might seek a way out of Louisville, which happens to be in New York for a game vs. St. John’s tonight. Pitino is from New York (the Nets are planning to move to Brooklyn), and also has reportedly grown weary of the attention he’s received in Louisville for a sex scandal involving the wife of a former assistant.
Plus, Louisville is overshadowed in its home state by Kentucky, which is among the nation’s best teams under first-year coach John Calipari. Pitino was Kentucky’s coach for eight seasons.
Pitino bombed as Celtics coach. He was 102-146 in four seasons — with no playoff appearances — and was replaced by Jim O’Brien in the 2000-01 season.