By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino finished his maiden season in Europe as the Greek Cup and League champion at the helm of Panathinaikos Athens. The fans of the team were singing his name following Game 3 of the Finals and the sweep over Promitheas Patras, as a signal to him that they want him back next season.
“They made me feel like royalty,” Pitino said.
Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos said that both himself and Pitino want to extend their partnership. So will the two-time NCAA champion coach return next season?
“I’ll go to New York. I have it all planned, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to speak to all my children. If I can get them on board, I will return. If I can’t get them on all on board, then I won’t. It’s very simple. We are a very strong family. Like the Greek families. It’s got to be one for all and all for one,” Pitino said in his post-game statements to Kostas Katevas of Cosmote TV.
When he was asked what the “on board” part includes, Pitino answered the following: “I want them to understand how much passion [I have]. How much I love the game of basketball. Between the sidelines, it’s my home for 40something years. Without it, I’m an empty man.”
Pitino proceeded to say that if he returns to Panathinaikos then there won’t be any college basketball for him anymore. “You have to understand is that if I come back, I give up college basketball forever. It could never happen because I couldn’t leave Panathinaikos for a college in March or April. If I come back, it’s Panathinaikos and then death.”
During the press conference, Pitino said that the chances of him remaining with the “Greens” increased the last couple of days following a meeting he had with the club owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos and the latter explaining to him how important it is to continue his father’s (the late Pavlos Giannakopoulos) legacy.
“If you asked me a couple of days ago, then I’d tell you that it’s just 5% I’ll stay with Panathinaikos. Now, it’s 50-50. We met with Dimitris and he presented me the budget for next season. I cried. And I asked him why you are doing this, putting 10 or 12 million euros out of your pocket? He said to me: “Coach that’s my legacy from my father. And I know that others can pay you more, but if I could, I would give you triple times the money”. You know I am old. And that struck a chord with me. I am at a point in my life that the issue is not money. And I have never heard anything like that before”.
Pitino is leaving for States and Panathinaikos will be waiting for his final answer.