Pitino mulls Puerto Rico coaching post
Country’s best Olympic performance -- fourth -- came in 1964
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville head coach Rick Pitino will meet with Puerto Rico basketball officials on Sunday in Miami to discuss coaching the national team in next summer's pre-Olympic qualifying tournament. Pitino said Friday he considers it "an honor'' to be considered for the position but hasn't made up his mind on whether to take the job.
"For me to step into a situation like that they'd have to have a tremendous desire to win because there's no compensation for me except love of the game,'' he said. "So I want to make sure their best players are really into it.''
Pitino plans to meet with Dallas Mavericks point guard JJ Berea -- a member of the Puerto Rico national team -- and other representatives of the Puerto Rican delegation on Sunday to talk things over before making a decision. "I want to see how much passion there is for winning because their backs are to the wall,'' Pitino said.
Local media were reporting that Pitino will be introduced at news conference in Miami on Monday. Carlos Beltran, the president of Puerto Rico's basketball federation, would only say that there will be an "important announcement.'' Beltran said earlier in the week that the federation and Pitino were close to an agreement, adding "there are just a few details we are completing.''
Whoever coaches the team will face a difficult task in getting Puerto Rico to the 2012 Summer Olympics. The team must make a deep run in the qualifying tournament to earn a trip to London. "They've got to finish in the top two, excluding the United States, to get into the Olympics ... against very good competition on foreign soil,'' Pitino said. "So they'll have to be very competitive.''
Puerto Rico last qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics, beating Team USA on its way to a sixth-place finish. Its best Olympic performance -- fourth -- came in Tokyo in 1964. Potential players next summer include Berea, Miami Heat guard Carlos Arroyo and Denver Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman. "I haven't spoke to him yet,'' Arroyo said of Pitino. "My job is to play basketball and do it with all the pride and love that I have for my homeland. Let's see what will happen.''
Pitino pointed to the job done by Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski in guiding Team USA back to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. "It's not just coaching, it's not just players, you've got to be really well organized,'' he said. "It's scouting, it's putting together the best players. If I can get this all organized and incorporate the University of Louisville, it's something I would strongly consider.''
Pitino acknowledged the country's support of the game has played a factor in his thoughts about the job. "The reason I'm attracted to looking at this situation is it's like Kentucky; basketball is the No. 1 sport,'' Pitino said. "They're extremely passionate about the game. If it wasn't in the top 3-4 sports, I wouldn't even be interested.''