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Pitino spurns Greek team, focused on NBA job

Rick Pitino has turned down an offer to return as president and coach of Panathinaikos, the franchise he led to a Greek League championship this season, Pitino told ESPN on Friday.

The Naismith Hall of Fame coach said he wants to return to the full-time pursuit of a job in the NBA -- as a coach or in a player personnel or advisory role.

Pitino led Panathinaikos to a Greek Cup title, completing a 15-0 season. The team was 7-0 when he arrived. Pitino also led the team into postseason play in the EuroLeague playoffs.

Pitino, 66, won NCAA titles at Kentucky and Louisville, reached seven Final Fours and claimed conference titles in the Big East, SEC and ACC. His career has also been marred by scandals that led to his demise at Louisville, where a national title and two Final Four appearances were vacated. He was fired in 2018.

Pitino was dismissed at Louisville in the aftermath of an FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting. Testimony and recordings of government-taped calls suggested that Pitino was unaware of the payments made to a former Louisville recruit's family.

The FBI inquiry was the last in a series of scandals at Louisville -- including an NCAA investigation into strippers and prostitutes used during recruiting visits to the school.

In the NBA, Pitino resigned from the Boston Celtics in January 2001, during his fourth season, with a 102-146 overall record. He was considered to have been overwhelmed with dual roles after signing pro sports' biggest coaching/executive deal to date (10 years, $70 million). He resigned with nearly $30 million left on the deal.

"I'm not looking for any of that [control] at this stage of my life," Pitino told ESPN in December. "I want to develop teams and develop players and build a winner. I value analytics. I want to fit into an organization. At this stage, that's all I'm interested in."

Pitino had a shorter but more successful run as coach of the New York Knicks in the late 1980s, winning an Atlantic Division title and reaching the playoffs twice (1988, 1989) before leaving for Kentucky. Under Pitino, the Knicks won 52 regular-season games and reached the conference semifinals in his final season.