Panathinaikos Players React to Rick Pitino Possibly Coaching the Team

    As Rick Pitino closes in on an agreement to continue his coaching career in Greece with EuroLeague power Panathinaikos, his future players are intrigued

    December 20, 2018

    As Rick Pitino closes in on an agreement to continue his coaching career in Greece with EuroLeague power Panathinaikos, his future players are intrigued with the Hall of Famer’s expected arrival.

    “He’s coming,” former Kansas Jayhawk Keith Langford, 35, who has played overseas since 2006, told Stadium. “Management hasn’t officially told us, but people around the team are already preparing everything for him.”

    Pitino told Stadium that he has yet to make a decision on whether he will accept the job and said he will meet with several members of his family on Friday in Miami. Pitino’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told the New York Times that the deal was done to coach the Athens-based team.

    Pitino, 66, has won a pair of national titles and made five Final Four appearances. He was fired by Louisville last year after an FBI probe showed that former Louisville player Brian Bowen’s father accepted money from an agent, but Pitino was never found to have any knowledge of the payment.

    “He’s obviously a legendary coach so to see him come to Europe it will be exciting to see how it fits,” said point guard Nick Calathes, who played for Pitino protege Billy Donovan in college at Florida. “I know he’s a players coach also, so that’s good. I’ve been lucky to have learned from a lot of great coaches, and he would be another one I can learn from.”

    “I’m a bit split down the middle to be honest,” Langford said. “It’s weird because I was just reading about Larry Brown’s team struggling in Europe this season and thought to myself, “That’s a coach coming to Europe for the first time from the States and has a pretty big learning curve and now here we are.’”

    On the other hand, it’s undeniable the guy knows basketball and all of the Americans on the team know his resume so he gets respect as soon as he hits the door,” Langford added.

    Panathinaikos has a handful of former college players on its team: Calathes, Langford, former UMass big man Stephan Lasme, ex-Maryland forward James Gist and Matt Lojeski (Hawaii).

    “I know the club will welcome him with open arms,” Gist told Stadium. “I think his biggest adjustment will be living in Europe and embracing the Greek culture.”

    Calathes, who has played in Greece for much of his professional career, said he feels the biggest challenge for Pitino will be adjusting to the difference in spacing — since it’s not as open as in college or in the NBA.

    The players on the team began to hear the speculation regarding Pitino when they got off the plane from Madrid. At first, the team was in complete shock.

    “Everyone was just kinda like, ‘It can’t be possible,’” Langford said. “We were all more so discussing the shock of him coming. So out of left field, man.”

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