Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino signed on in December to coach J.J. Barea and the Puerto Rican national team as it attempts to qualify this summer for the 2012 Olympics in London. Pitino backed out on Wednesday, citing various reasons.
One report suggested that one reason Pitino opted against it is because Barea and countryman Carlos Arroyo, now with the Boston Celtics, have decided not to play. That would rank as major surprise. Both players, the only Puerto Ricans in the NBA, have been committed to Puerto Rico's national team and both met with Pitino in Miami before the Mavs played the Heat back in December.
Barea, for one, was excited to have Pitino lead the team after Puerto Rico's disappointing showing in last summer's FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
"I'm excited for it. We need a guy like that. It's going to help us as a team," Barea said then. "He'll bring defense and discipline and I think guys will listen to him more than they listen to the guys in Puerto Rico just because he's Rick Pitino."
So will Barea suit up for his country? Before the Mavs boarded the plane bound for Portland, Barea said he thinks he and Arroyo will continue to captain the team.