Rick Pitino: 'Shocking' Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving Didn't Give Knicks a Meeting

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2020

Rick Pitino the new coach of the Greek national basketball team answers to a question during a press conference in Athens, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.  The 67-year-old American has agreed to coach the Greek national basketball team and lead its effort to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

Although Rick Pitino spent the past few years coaching in Greece, he still paid attention to the NBA.

In an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, Pitino said he was "shocked" the Brooklyn Nets moved on from Kenny Atkinson. He also noted his surprise that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving snubbed the New York Knicks in free agency:

"Without giving the Knicks an interview, that was shocking. The Knicks today, it's not like the old days, where everybody dreamed of playing at Madison Square Garden. When I was playing ball, you'd give everything to get to Madison Square Garden. So it's a little bit different today, and the Knick organization is going through difficult times, but hopefully they got the right leadership now and they'll turn it around."

Pitino was recently hired as head coach of Iona College.

The 67-year-old has had a long career in basketball, winning two national championships at the college level with Kentucky and Louisville (second was later vacated by the NCAA).

He also spent eight years in the NBA, including four with the New York Knicks. He was the team's head coach from 1987-88 to 1988-89.

While Pitino resigned after just two seasons, his run started a stretch of 14 straight playoff appearances for the Knicks that included two trips to the NBA Finals. The organization has floundered since with just four postseason appearances in the last 19 years.

Current players don't have the same feelings about the Knicks as older generations did, and the same could be said about Madison Square Garden. Still, despite the team's struggles, Pitino called new president Leon Rose a "great choice" and said center Mitchell Robinson will "have a great NBA career."

Concerning 2019 third overall pick RJ Barrett, he said, "He's got great size, great ability, and everybody in the NBA improves their shooting."