Basketball

Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino accepts offer to lead Greek team Panathinaikos

AFP-JIJI, AP

Former NBA coach Rick Pitino, fired last year by the University of Louisville after a pay for play recruiting scandal, has agreed to coach Greek club Panathinaikos, according to his agent.

Drew Rosenhaus, Pitino’s agent, told ESPN and The New York Times on Thursday that Pitino, a 66-year-old New York native who guided Louisville from 2001-17, would coach the Athens-based team.

Pitino was fired in October 2017 after allegations he was aware of payments to a top prospect unveiled by federal prosecutors, claims involving an Adidas executive giving a player money to play at Louisville, which has an apparel deal with Adidas, and represent the shoemaker after turning professional.

Pitino was not mentioned in the complaint and has maintained he was not aware of a scheme to pay the family of former Cardinals recruit Brian Bowen to play for Louisville. The immediate fallout from that scandal — soon after a sex scandal that resulted in the program vacating its 2013 NCAA title— ultimately cost him his job after 16 seasons.

While Pitino expressed a desire to remain involved in basketball, he said in September he was likely done with coaching despite feeling “physically very young and mentally very young.”

Pitino has also led the New York Knicks (1987-89) and Boston Celtics (1997-01). His coaching career also included stops at Boston College, Providence and Kentucky, where he won a national title in 1996.

In 2013, Pitino was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but Louisville later vacated the title due to recruiting violations.

Panathinaikos fired coach Xavi Pascual on Thursday following a fifth loss in seven games in the Euroleague, Europe’s main club competition.

Panathinaikos’ players include former Florida standout and Memphis Grizzlies player Nick Calathes, former NBA lottery pick Georgios Papagiannis and former Knicks player Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.