The New Zealand Breakers have reportedly offered former Louisville coach Rick Pitino their vacant head coaching job, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Pitino served as the head coach at the University of Louisville for 16 years, leading the team to an NCAA National Championship in 2013.
He was fired in October 2017 amid a federal investigation that saw 10 people arrested, accused of corruption and taking bribes.
Pitino was later not named in the federal complaint and has said he was unaware of any payment to a recruit.
With his past success in the basketball world, Pitino is somewhat of a hot commodity on the coaching market and the Breakers’ new American ownership have wasted no time in reaching out to him.
The Breakers and head coach Paul Henare decided to part ways back on March 18 and a few local names such as Aaron Fearne, Shawn Dennis and Nenad Vucinic were mentioned as potential replacements, but the Pitino news comes out of nowhere.
New Breakers’ ownership, consisting of former NBA players Shawn Marion and Matt Walsh, among others, obviously have ties to American basketball and are showing no hesitancy to reach out to some big names.
American blogger Dan Katz, who’s also part of the ownership group, said “we expect to hear back from Coach Pitino very quickly.”
Filling the vacancy with a coach of Pitino’s stature would provide a tremendous boost to not only the Breakers, but New Zealand basketball in general.
It should be noted, though, that nothing is imminent between Pitino and the Breakers.\
Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal has reportedly received a text message from Pitino denying the Breakers job offer.
“It’s total BS — someone trying to poke fun at me,” the former Louisville coach said via text message. “Lot of comedians out of work.”
Part owner Dan Katz took to Twitter to respond to Pitino’s reported response:
Breakers general manager Dillon Boucher was approached for comment by the Courier Journal, downplaying the reported news of a job offer.
“Thank you for your interest in our recruitment of our head coaching position,” Boucher said via email, “but unfortunately we aren’t commenting on an open coaching search.”
UPDATE No. 2:
Alex Chapman of Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB has confirmed that the two sides are in discussions.
We’ll have more information as the story develops.