Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has had his greatest success as a college coach, despite two different stints in the NBA. He’s the first coach in NCAA history to take three teams to the Final Four. He captured a national title for Kentucky in 1996. After the next year he took another shot at the NBA, accepting the head coaching job for the Boston Celtics.
That is a decision Pitino told 790 The Ticket in Miami that he shouldn’t have left Big Blue Nation for Boston.
“I think I do regret leaving Kentucky because I took over a team with 15 wins banking everything on the Tim Duncan lottery, and once we didn’t get Tim Duncan I realized that leaving Kentucky was not a good move,” said Pitino.
In 1997, Duncan was taken by the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics took Chauncey Billups with the third overall pick, followed by Ron Mercer three picks later.
Pitino was 102-146 in four years with the Celtics. He was 219-50 in eight seasons at Kentucky. Since joining the Cardinals in 2001, Pitino is 296-111. The current Louisville coach was more successful in his first NBA job, coaching the New York Knicks from 1987-1989.
“I loved going to the Knicks because we won the Atlantic Division championship,” he said. “We went from winning 21 games or 19 games to winning 52 games in a short period of time. I loved coaching Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and all those guys.”
Recently, Pitino was announced as a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.