Panathinaikos head basketball coach Rick Pitino said Friday that he still has aspirations to return to the NBA.
When asked about rumors regarding whether he'd take over as UCLA's head coach, Pitino shifted the focus to the NBA but also made it clear he's enjoying his time in Greece, according to Dionysis Aravantinos of EuroHoops.net:
"When I left last year, I said I wanted to go back to the NBA, and that's why I took this job [at Panathinaikos], but right now to be honest, I'm not thinking of anything except trying to make the playoffs with this organization. It's not easy for a coach to come in and does not know the offense, defense and out of bounds plays. I have to find new ways, in order to win. I miss my family, but overall I am having a great time here. The owner has been great to me, and I am focused to be the coach here."
Adam Zagoria of Forbes reported Friday that "influential" UCLA boosters are targeting Pitino to become the next head coach of the Bruins.
Louisville fired the 66-year-old Pitino as its head basketball coach in 2017 after it was alleged that he knew about payments to recruit Brian Bowen to attend Louisville and represent Adidas upon turning pro.
Panathinaikos hired Pitino in December, and he is 2-1 in three games at the helm.
While Pitino is best known for leading Kentucky and Louisville to college basketball glory, he has extensive experience as an NBA head coach. The Basketball Hall of Famer was the New York Knicks' head coach for two seasons in 1987-88 and 1988-89 before he returned to the college ranks.
He was then the head coach of the Boston Celtics for parts of four seasons from 1997-98 through 2000-01.
In six NBA campaigns, Pitino posted a 192-220 record.
He made the playoffs in each of his two years with the Knicks and reached the second round in 1989, but he didn't make it to the postseason with the Celtics.
Success in the college ranks doesn't always translate to the NBA, but Pitino is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, and if he can get the job done at Panathinaikos, it could go a long way toward convincing NBA teams that he is ready to return to the league.