Louisville's Rick Pitino Using Kings to Drum Up NBA Interest
Kings owner Gavin Maloof has denied talking to Pitino, and mentions only that Pitino is a "great coach." Ultimately, there's an overwhelming sense that these Pitino-to-the-NBA rumors are being pushed by The Rick -- not the Kings. That Louisville is now jumping out to publicly declare Pitino will stay is all the more suspicious.
Or, in other words, why would Louisville need to declare he's staying if he hadn't flirted with leaving? This is not a Kings-driven rumor. Wojnarowski writes that "Pitino has communicated his interest in a possible NBA return to Kings ownership" and "for a variety of reasons Pitino is feeling the pull of the pros again." Louisville's athletic program wants to squelch that. (Note that it's the university spokesman denying the flight, not Pitino. Also note that even if Pitino himself stood before the media and said, "I'm staying," we'd have little impetus to believe him. Coaches say these things.)
Further, Pitino doesn't make sense for Sacramento. He (or his intermediaries) can say he doesn't want personnel control ... but this is Rick Pitino. He wants personnel control. He's a college coach, a recruitor, a don. Sacramento has just reaffirmed its power structure, with the Maloofs publicly giving general manager Geoff Petrie control of the coach-hiring process (for the first time in their tenure). Petrie does not want a high-powered prince like Pitino. He wants a smart Xs and Os guy he feel personally comfortable with, someone with a record of positive NBA experience. Pitino's Knicks word was a long, long time ago, and it's hard to see given the massive gaping wound that was Boston.
But the whole episode -- if this really is dead; keep in mind that the Maloofs are incredibly unpredictable -- does serve to put the NBA on notice: The Rick is ready to come back. His folks wouldn't be chasing Sacramento if he didn't want to plant a seed inside the NBA's collective skull. And even with that Boston blood still flooding the streets -- no one will ever forget that disaster -- some team will eventually put Pitino in charge. And it will be glorious, or horrible. No in between.