Ex-NBA coach Pitino leaves Greek giants Panathinaikos

Athens (AFP) –


Former NBA coach Rick Pitino has left his post at Panathinaikos in an agreement by mutual consent, the Greek club said on Friday.

The 67-year-old former Boston Celtics and New York Knicks coach said last week he had accepted a job with Iona College in the United States.

Pitino left the United States for Greece under a cloud after first an escort scandal and then a recruitment scandal derailed his career with Louisville firing him.

"Mr. Pitino's presence in the Panathinaikos family has been a great honour for us," Panathinaikos said.

"Every minute of our cooperation with Mr. Pitino has been extremely educational for our team members.

"The knowledge of the American coach leaves a great legacy for the present and future of our club," Panathinaikos said.

"We are very pleased that his return to the US to be close to his family in these difficult times for humanity has been combined with his return to his home court: the NCAA championship," the statement from Panathinaikos continued.

Pitino rejoined Panathinaikos last November and leaves the Athens outfit in sixth place in the Euroleague standings and top of the Greek league although due to the coronavirus both the Euroleague and the domestic circuit have been suspended.

"Thank you Panathinaikos owner, staff and players. I can't love a country and organisation anymore. Thank you. You’re the best!" Pitino tweeted.

Pitino led Panathinaikos to the Greek league title last season before quitting because he wanted to return to the US. He said his wife persuaded him to return to Greece.

Besides holding the job at Panathinaikos, Pitino had also been hired to coach the Greek national team starting in May and he has said that he will keep this post.

Pitino made his name in US college basketball, guiding Kentucky to a national title in 1996 and then repeating the feat at Louisville in 2013 when he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame, but the university was stripped of that title in 2017 as punishment for a "play for play" recruiting scandal that ended Pitino's US career until he was hired by Iona.

The college, based just outside Pitino's native New York, has only won one NCAA tournament game in its history.