NBA Rumors: Cavs Say They’re Not Hiring Rick Pitino

Joe Robbins Getty Images

Rick Pitino is one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all-time, although his two forays into the NBA have not gone nearly as well. And with Pitino now out of college basketball, it’s natural that rumors would swirl about the coach giving the professional ranks another shot. Pitino, in fact, told ESPN two years ago that he was interested in a return to the NBA.

However, it doesn’t sound it like any such opportunity would come with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After veteran NBA writer Peter Vecsey, writing on his Patreon page, reported over the weekend that Pitino and the Cavs had had discussions, the team has flatly denied the report, per The Plain Dealer.

“We are, respectfully, not interested in him at all. No conversations with him by [owner Dan Gilbert] or anyone else,” a team source told the newspaper, which cited “multiple sources” within the organization saying that there’s nothing to the rumors.

Pitino, who has been coaching in Greece since 2018, was fired from the University of Louisville in 2017 after a 17-year run that included a national championship. The coach’s firing followed an FBI investigation into payments to recruits, although Pitino had survived two previous high-profile scandals, including one involving an extramarital affair that led to an extortion plot.

While Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach who has won national championships with two college teams and led three different ones to the Final Four, his NBA forays have been less successful. Pitino briefly coached the New York Knicks in the late 1980s, and had a disastrous tenure as coach and team president with the Boston Celtics in the late 1990s, resigning in 2000 after delivering a speech that included the phrase “all the negativity that’s in this town sucks,” per Celtics Life.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are searching for identity a year after the second departure of LeBron James. The team fired Tyronn Lue — now in line to possibly coach James again with the Lakers — last October, and replaced him with Larry Drew, although the team and Drew parted ways at the end of the season. The team, which had the second-worst record in the NBA in the 2018-19 season and ended the season with ten straight losses, is looking at a high draft pick in this summer’s draft.

A couple of assistant coaches, Dallas’ Jamahl Mosley and Miami’s Juwan Howard, have already interviewed for the Cleveland head coaching job.