By Antonis Stroggylakis / email@example.com
Hall Of Fame coach Rick Pitino confirmed that he is in talks with the Greek Federation about the possibility of taking over the national team and said that if he accepts the job, he’ll do it without pay.
“I’ll see the game (Panathinaikos vs. Valencia for EuroLeague) on Friday, visit my friends and meet with the Federation about possibly coaching the [Greek] national team,” Pitino said to the Greek national television during his arrival to Athens’ airport, Thursday (7/11).
“I look forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a big challenge if it happens. But it’s exciting,” Pitino added about possibly of becoming the head coach of Greece. “I’m going to speak to the head of the Federation. I haven’t met them yet. I’m going to speak to him [Giorgos Vassilakopoulos] either tomorrow or the next day.”
The Greek national team, that finished at the 11th spot in the FIBA World Cup, will play in the Olympic Qualifiers next summer and compete for a spot in the tournament in Tokyo.
“I think the challenge lies because they didn’t qualify (to the Olympic Games). And to me, it’s a great honor. I’m doing this because of my love for Greece and the people. It will be very challenging but very rewarding. These players are all coming off professional years. So they are a little tired. Motivation is a big part of getting them ready. We will get them ready,” Pitino mentioned.
Pitino also said that if he coaches the Greek national team, he will do it for free: “I told them I don’t want a nickel. I don’t want a penny. To me, it’s a great honor to coach Greece. To me, that’s worth a million dollars, the honor of coaching Greece. So, I don’t want any money. I coach for the love of the game and I have great love for Greece and I would never take a nickel to be the coach of Greece”.
Pitino was hired by Panathinaikos in December 2018 to replace Xavi Pascual and embarked on his first coaching stint in Europe. The two-time NCAA champion led the Greek powerhouse through a turnaround in the EuroLeague and towards the playoffs by capturing eight wins in the last 10 games of the regular season.
In Greece, Pitino won both the League and Cup titles with Panathinaikos.