The New York Daily News reported today that Rick Pitino has made overtures to the New Jersey Nets about the head coaching job they are expected to have available at the end of the season.
The Daily News cited “sources close to Pitino” saying he sent intermediaries to talk to the team.
The Newark Star-Ledger talked to Nets officials, who refuted the report.
The report also diffuses itself, however, by citing team sources as saying they’re not interested, that Pitino is not likely to be a candidate or to be the next coach of the Nets.
Two things. First, this is the second time in a year that a report has surfaced of interest on Pitino’s part about a job with an organization that, essentially, was not interested in him. In fact, in both cases, the president of the team issued immediate denials that there had been any contact. These kinds of reports are unusual. Name me another coach who has had these kinds of reports surface about him in connection with jobs in which there’s little to no possibility that he can wind up in the position. Not saying they’re wrong, just saying it’s strange.
You do have to ask yourself where this is coming from. It is certainly not in Pitino’s best interests to have these kinds of things out there. It hurts recruiting. The timing is suspect. He’s in New York to face St. John’s and likely now to face a barrage of questions about it from the New York media. I can’t think of any source truly close to Pitino who would put this out there at this time. If it were a Nets source, that’s one thing. But that’s not what has been reported, and the team is denying interest and contact.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Pitino go on the offensive on this one after the game at St. John’s tonight.
Secondly, I don’t put it out of the realm of possibility that Pitino would have interest in an eventual return to the NBA. I do believe, however, given all that has gone on with him, he’s not going to leave college basketball on anything less than his own terms, and I would think that means with a team that is nationally ranked and a Big East contender. His college legacy is very important to him.