By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Pitino’s maiden EuroLeague playoffs campaign came to an end Tuesday (23/4). Panathinaikos lost Game 3 of the best-of-five quarterfinal series vs, defending champion Real Madrid and thus got swept and eliminated from Final Four contention.
While disappointed for not making the Final Four, Pitino said that he loved the EuroLeague experience with Panathinaikos and leading the team to the playoffs against all odds.
With Pitino on board, Panathinaikos had a 10-6 record in EuroLeague, including a decisive streak of six straight wins, to make the postseason.
“For me to take over a team that had eight home games and 11 on the road. The chances of making the playoffs were really slim. For the guys to respond and give me everything they had. To make the playoffs was a big treat. I loved coaching here. I love the people. Guys in the team are great to work with. We got a tremendous owner that’s very passionate. A great GM in Manos [Papadopoulos]. I love everything about Panathinaikos. Even… I got a funny story,” Pitino said before resuming the tale.
“I have a locker room this size where I change and shower. All season long I’ve been trying to get them to clean the floor, get rid of the mold. The funny part.. maybe I shouldn’t say this. That’s OK: There’s a toilet seat that if I would sit down, it breaks in half and just goes off. So I can never go to the bathroom, I have to hold it for after I go home.”
“After we made the playoffs, they got rid of the mold, gave me a rag and fixed the toilet seat. So It took me to make the playoffs to get a new toilet seat. So I’m very appreciative of that,” Pitino said with a laugh.
“I may steal that seat and bring it home with me and put it among the Final Fours and the trophies,” Pitino joked.
Among other things, Pitino absolutely adored the fans of Panathinaikos. The Greens’ supporters greatly cheered for their team following the loss to Real in Game 3 despite the result.
“I can leave Greece and say to myself that it was a great honor to coach in front of these fans. They are the best fans I’ve seen in pro, college, in any situation. I’ve never seen fans as good as this in my lifetime and I’m coaching for 42-43 years.”
The season for Pitino hasn’t been over yet since Panathinaikos will now shift its attention to defending its Greek League title. The Hall of Fame coach is already reported to be considered by colleges and clubs in the U.S.A.
Is there a possibility he’ll stay with Panathinaikos?
“I’d like to win a championship,” Pitino said. “Final Four has never been enough for me, I’d like to win a championship. I don’t know if it’s going to be here. I haven’t talked to anybody except you all about next year. I’ve never talked to the owner, never talked to the GM about next year. I said let’s focus on this year. So I don’t know, to answer honestly. I came here for six months to try and get the team in the playoffs. Try to win a championship. I’ve never thought about next year. Somewhere down the road, I’ll think of next year. But I have never thought about it at all. Never discussed it with the owner, never discussed it with the GM. I was just trying to coach every second I could to make the playoffs. I’m very happy about the effort they’ve given me.”
“If I do come back, and it is a big ‘If’, I will do anything possible to get the players to not only go to the Final Four but to win a championship,” Pitino concluded.