ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rick Pitino has agreed to coach the Greek national basketball team and lead the country’s effort to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Greek basketball federation said Friday that Pitino will be officially presented on Monday, when details of his agreement will be announced.
“Really honored to be coaching the Greek National team,” Pitino wrote on Twitter. “Have a lot of work and preparation ahead but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The 67-year-old American coached Greek club Panathinaikos last season and guided the team to victory in the country’s cup competition before returning to the United States. He remains popular among Greek fans despite his outspoken criticism of smoking and rowdy behavior by spectators at games.
NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo both play for Greece and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Greeks narrowly missed out on reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup in China in September.
Pitino spent much of his career jumping between the college ranks and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville.
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Hall of Famer Rick Pitino will coach Puerto Rico’s men’s basketball team as it hopes to qualify for its first Olympics since 2004.
Pitino, 62 and the current Louisville coach, will guide the Puerto Ricans at the Pan American Games in Toronto in July and, more importantly for Olympic qualification, at FIBA Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, in August and September.
At Athens 2004, Puerto Rico crushed the U.S. 92-73 in the Americans’ most lopsided loss in Olympic or World Championships history. Puerto Rico, which has never won an Olympic basketball medal, ended up losing in the quarterfinals.
Two Olympic berths are available at FIBA Americas this summer. The U.S. is already qualified, and Brazil is likely to be given a spot in the Rio 2016 tournament as host nation, so Puerto Rico shouldn’t have to worry about either of those nations.
Instead, it should be fighting for an Olympic spot with 2004 Olympic champion Argentina, upstart Canada, the Dominican Republic (with Al Horford, potentially) and host Mexico.
Puerto Rico could field a roster including players with NBA experience, namely J.J. Barea, Renaldo Balkman, Daniel Santiago and Carlos Arroyo.
If it doesn’t finish in the top two at FIBA Americas, Puerto Rico could get another chance to make it to Rio via a last-chance global qualifying tournament in 2016.
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