Richard Andrew Pitino (born September 18, 1952) is an American college basketball coach who is the head coach for Iona College. He is also the head coach of Greece's senior national team. He has been the head coach of several teams in NCAA Division I and in the NBA, including Boston University (1978–1983), Providence College (1985–1987), the New York Knicks (1987–1989), the University of Kentucky (1989–1997), the Boston Celtics (1997–2001), the University of Louisville (2001–2017), and Panathinaikos of the Greek Basket League and EuroLeague (2018–2020).
|League||Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference|
|Born||September 18, 1952|
New York City, New York
|Listed height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Listed weight||165 lb (75 kg)|
|High school||St. Dominic|
(Oyster Bay, New York)
|1976||Hawaii (interim HC)|
|1983–1985||New York Knicks (assistant)|
|1987–1989||New York Knicks|
|Career highlights and awards|
|As head coach:
|Basketball Hall of Fame as coach|
Pitino led Kentucky to an NCAA championship in 1996. He is the only coach to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to a Final Four. In 2013, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In June 2017, the NCAA suspended Pitino for five games of the 2017–18 season for his lack of oversight in an escort sex scandal at the University of Louisville involving recruits. Louisville's national championship from 2013 was eventually vacated as well. In September, Pitino was implicated in a federal investigation involving bribes to recruits, which resulted in Louisville firing him for cause.
Pitino was born in New York City, New York, and was raised in Bayville, New York. He was the team captain of the St. Dominic High School basketball team in Oyster Bay, Long Island. He enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1970. At a listed height of 1.83 m (6'0") tall, he was a standout point guard for the Minutemen basketball team. Pitino held the tenth spot at UMass for career assists, with 329, until Chaz Williams (2011-2014) became the leader in career assists following his final season with the Minutemen. He led the team in assists as a junior and senior. The 168 assists as a senior is the eighth-best single season total ever there. Pitino was a freshman at the same time future NBA legend Julius Erving spent his junior (and final) year at UMass, although the two never played on the same team because freshmen were ineligible to play varsity basketball at the time. Other teammates of Pitino's include Al Skinner, who also went on to become a successful college coach, and baseball player Mike Flanagan, who went on to pitch in the major leagues and win the AL Cy Young Award in 1979. Pitino earned his degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) in 1974.
Pitino's college coaching assignments include Boston University, Providence College, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville. As a collegiate head coach, Pitino has compiled a 652–274 record, for a .706 winning percentage that was ranked 15th among active coaches and 40th all-time among all collegiate basketball coaches entering the 2021-2022 season.
Pitino is considered by many to be one of the first coaches to promote fully taking advantage of the 3-point shot, first adopted by the NCAA in 1987. By exploiting the 3-point shot, his teams at Kentucky in the early 1990s were known as Pitino's Bombinos, as a significant portion of the offensive points came from the 3-point shot. Even now, Pitino's teams are known for the 3-point threat and all of his teams rank towards the top in 3-point attempts per season.
Many of Pitino's players and assistant coaches have gone on to become successful collegiate coaches. In total, 21 former Pitino players and coaches have become Division I head coaches, including former University of Florida coach Billy Donovan (now head coach of the Chicago Bulls), High Point University's Tubby Smith, Santa Clara University's Herb Sendek, UCLA's Mick Cronin, New Mexico's Richard Pitino, Seton Hall's Kevin Willard, former Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus and BYU's Mark Pope.
Assistant coaching career (1974–1978)Edit
Pitino started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Hawaii in 1974, and became a full-time assistant in 1975. Pitino served as Hawaii's interim head coach late in the 1975–76 season. Coach Bruce O'Neil was fired after the Rainbow Warriors' started the season 9–12. Pitino led Hawaii for their final six games, going 2–4 in the span.
Pitino's time at Hawaii was marred by a 1977 NCAA report on sanctions against the program. According to the report, Pitino was implicated in 8 of the 64 infractions that led the university to be placed on probation. The violations involving Pitino included providing round-trip air fare for a player between New York and Honolulu, arranging for student-athletes to receive used cars for season tickets, and handing out coupons to players for free food at McDonald's. He was also cited, along with the head coach, Bruce O'Neil, for providing misinformation to the NCAA and University of Hawaii officials. Also in 1977, the NCAA infractions committee recommended that Pitino and O'Neil be disassociated from Hawaii athletics. In 1989, Pitino would dismiss the report, saying "I didn't make any mistakes, I don't care what anybody says."
Boston University (1978–1983)Edit
Pitino's first head coaching job came in 1978 at Boston University. In the two seasons before his arrival, the team had won a mere 17 games. Pitino led the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 24 years.
Pitino left Boston University to become an assistant coach with the New York Knicks under Hubie Brown. In 1985, Pitino returned to college coaching to become head coach at Providence College after being hired by then-athletic director Lou Lamoriello. Providence had gone a dismal 11–20 in the year before he took over. Two years later, Pitino led the team to the Final Four. That Final Four team featured point guard Billy Donovan, who would go on to be an assistant coach under Pitino at the University of Kentucky and then win back-to-back national championships as head coach at the University of Florida.
After spending two years coaching in the NBA, Pitino returned to the college level again in 1989, becoming the coach at Kentucky. The Kentucky program was recovering from a major recruiting scandal brought on by former coach Eddie Sutton that left it on NCAA probation. Pitino quickly restored Kentucky's reputation and performance, leading his second school to the Final Four in the 1993 NCAA Tournament, and winning a national title in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, Kentucky's 6th NCAA Championship. The following year, Pitino's Kentucky team made it back to the national title game, losing to Arizona in overtime in the finals of the 1997 NCAA Tournament. Pitino's fast-paced teams at Kentucky were favorites of the school's fans. It was primarily at Kentucky where he implemented his signature style of full-court pressure defense. The following year, he left Kentucky for the NBA and Kentucky went on to win the 1998 national title. He would later refer to Kentucky as "the Roman Empire of college basketball".
Pitino went back to the NBA in the 1997–98 season, but returned to college—and his adopted home state—on March 21, 2001 to coach the University of Louisville following the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum. In the 2005 season, Pitino led Louisville to their first Final Four in 19 years, and became the first men's coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four. Immediately following their Final Four run, several players graduated or entered the 2005 NBA Draft. The inexperience caused the Cardinals to limp into the Big East Tournament seeded 12th, and miss the NCAA tournament. They made the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), where they were defeated by eventual champions University of South Carolina. The 2007 Cardinal team was primarily the same team, with added freshmen. Picked to finish towards the bottom of the Big East Conference again, Pitino led them to a second-place finish, 12–4 (tied with the University of Pittsburgh, who had been beaten by the Cardinals during the regular season) in the conference standings and a first round bye in the conference tournament. Pitino implemented a 2–2–1 and 2–3 zone defense midway through the season. The 2007 team's season ended when the Cardinals lost to Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 2008 Cardinals finished second in the Big East and ranked 13th in both the AP and Coaches' polls. Louisville was the third seed in the 2008 NCAA tournament's East region. They defeated Boise State, Oklahoma and Tennessee to advance to the Elite Eight, where they were defeated by North Carolina. Louisville was the top seed overall in the 2009 NCAA tournament and was planted as the first seed in the Midwest region. They defeated Morehead State, Siena and Arizona to advance to the Elite Eight, where they were defeated by Michigan State. In 2010 the Cardinals suffered a disappointing 15-point loss to their first round opponent, the California Golden Bears. In 2011, Louisville was upset by 13th-seeded Morehead State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In 2012, Pitino coached the Cardinals to the Big East tournament championship and a berth as a 4 seed in the West region of the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals defeated Davidson, New Mexico, and top seed Michigan State to advance to the regional final against Florida and his former player and friend Billy Donovan. The Cardinals would go on to win that game, but lost to arch-rivals and eventual national champions Kentucky in the 2012 Final Four.
In 2013, Pitino led the Louisville Cardinals to their third National Championship in an 82–76 win over Michigan to become the first NCAA Division I coach in history to win a championship with two different schools.
The University of Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015–16 season amid an ongoing NCAA investigation over an escort sex scandal involving recruits between 2010 and 2014. The ban included both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. On June 15, 2017, the NCAA charged Pitino for failure to monitor his basketball program, which was involved in a sex-for-pay scandal. He was suspended for the first five games of the ACC season in 2017–18. The NCAA announced they were considering forcing Louisville to vacate wins from the 2012–13 season, including its 2013 NCAA National Championship over Michigan, which would make Louisville the first national champion to be stripped of its title. The NCAA is also considering stripping Louisville of wins from several other seasons before and after 2012–13.
On February 20, 2018, the NCAA officially announced that the 2013 National Championship and their 2012 Final Four appearance had been vacated. It was the first time the NCAA vacated a men's basketball national title.
Scandal and ousterEdit
On September 26, 2017, federal prosecutors announced that the school was under investigation for an alleged "pay for play" involving recruits at Louisville. The allegations state that an Adidas executive conspired to pay $100,000 to the family of a top-ranked national recruit to play at Louisville and to represent Adidas when he turned pro. The criminal complaint does not name Louisville specifically but appears to involve the recruitment of Brian Bowen, who committed on June 3, 2017 to the school.
A day later, Louisville placed Pitino on unpaid administrative leave, while athletic director Tom Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave. According to a letter interim president Greg Postel sent to Pitino, the information spelled out by prosecutors amounted to a "material breach" of his contract. Pitino's lawyer, Steve Pence, told The Courier-Journal that as he understood it, Pitino had been "effectively fired". Under the terms of Pitino's contract, Louisville was required to give him 10 days' notice and "an opportunity to be heard" before firing him for cause. According to CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, school officials did not intend for Pitino to ever return to the sidelines again, and planned to cut ties with him as soon as they could legally do so.
On October 2, the board of the University of Louisville Athletic Association voted to formally begin the process of firing Pitino for cause. On the same day, Pitino, through his lawyer, claimed that Louisville officials should have given him 10 days notice and a chance to respond before placing him on leave. On October 16, the ULAA board voted unanimously to fire Pitino for cause.
On September 18, 2019, nearly two years after his dismissal and his lawsuit for $38.7 million against the ULAA, Pitino settled with the University and dropped the case. As a result, his termination was changed from a firing on October 16, 2017 to a resignation on October 3, 2017, citing "zero liability" between both parties.
Return to NCAA (2020–present)Edit
On March 14, 2020, Pitino was named head coach of Iona College after Tim Cluess stepped down from the position due to health issues on March 13. Despite the hiring, Pitino was scheduled to finish his commitments to Panathinaikos, however on March 20, Panathinaikos announced mutual agreement to terminate the contract.
Pitino became head coach of the New York Knicks on July 14, 1987. The year before he arrived, the team had only won 24 games. In just two years, Pitino led the Knicks to their first division title in nearly twenty years. He resigned from the Knicks on May 30, 1989. Pitino returned to the NBA in 1997 when the Boston Celtics hired him as head coach on May 6, 1997. He resigned on January 8, 2001.
His NBA coaching experience often demonstrated a deep frustration with the dynamics of the league, especially in Boston, where he amassed a 102–146 record from 1997 to 2001. After being beaten by the Toronto Raptors on March 1, 2000, on a buzzer-beater by Vince Carter, Pitino's frustration reached critical mass as he addressed the press. Referring to the expectations of Boston Celtics fans and media, Pitino challenged each of them to let go of the past and focus on the future:
Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they're going to be gray and old. What we are is young, exciting, hard-working, and we're going to improve. People don't realize that, and as soon as they realize those three guys are not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us because there are young guys in that (locker) room playing their asses off. I wish we had $90 million under the salary cap. I wish we could buy the world. We can't; the only thing we can do is work hard, and all the negativity that's in this town sucks. I've been around when Jim Rice was booed. I've been around when Yastrzemski was booed. And it stinks. It makes the greatest town, greatest city in the world, lousy. The only thing that will turn this around is being upbeat and positive like we are in that locker room... and if you think I'm going to succumb to negativity, you're wrong. You've got the wrong guy leading this team.
Pitino struggled in Boston, and statistics like 1998–99's 19–31 record made him little better in the eyes of many Boston fans than his inexperienced predecessor, M. L. Carr. Pitino's remarks became a cornerstone of Celtics lore, and has served as a metaphor for other sports franchises and their inability to relive past successes. Pitino himself reprised the speech in a tongue-in-cheek manner at Louisville in November 2005, challenging his freshmen players to play as tough as past seniors and drawing laughter from sportswriters in a postgame press conference. During his time in Boston, he also served as team president, with complete control over basketball operations.
On December 26, 2018, Panathinaikos announced Pitino as the head coach of the team until the end of the season, marking his debut in the EuroLeague. On February 17, 2019, they won the 2018–19 Greek Cup against PAOK in the final. In the EuroLeague Regular Season, they managed to make a comeback after a 6–8 start, to finish in sixth place and reach the playoffs, after they registered ten wins in their last 16 games. In the EuroLeague Playoffs, Panathinaikos fell for a second consecutive year against defending champions Real Madrid, thus failing to qualify for the 2019 EuroLeague Final Four. The season ended with Panathinaikos winning the 2018–19 Greek Basket League's season championship, after they swept Promitheas Patras 3–0 in the League's Finals. After the season, Panathinaikos made an offer to coach Pitino to extend his stay, and although he showed willingness to stay in Greece for another season, he declined the offer, due to a family matter.
National team careerEdit
On December 20, 2010, Pitino was hired as head coach of the senior Puerto Rico national team. On April 29, 2011, it was announced that Pitino would not coach the Puerto Rico national team, due to scheduling conflicts and NCAA regulations disallowing it. Pitino coached the Puerto Rican national team at the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, in Mexico City, Mexico. They finished the tournament in 5th place.
On November 8, 2019, Pitino was hired as head coach of Greece's senior national team. The Hellenic Basketball Federation announced that Pitino would be Greece's head coach at the 2020 FIBA Victoria Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the 2020 Summer Olympics, should Greece qualify, while Thanasis Skourtopoulos would serve as Greece's head coach for the 2021 EuroBasket qualification tournament.
Pitino married his wife, the former Joanne Minardi, in 1976. They have five living children: Michael, Christopher, Richard (currently the head coach at New Mexico), Ryan and Jacqueline. Another son, Daniel, died from congenital heart failure in 1987 at the age of six months. Rick and Joanne established the Daniel Pitino Foundation (along with a Daniel Pitino shelter in Owensboro, Kentucky) in his memory, which has raised millions of dollars for children in need.
Their son's death was not the last tragedy for Rick and Joanne. Both were especially hard-hit by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as Joanne's brother and Rick's closest friend, Billy Minardi, was working as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by American Airlines Flight 11. Since 2002, the University of Louisville has designated a December home game as the Billy Minardi Classic, and the university named a dorm on campus as "Billy Minardi Hall". Only a few months earlier, another brother-in-law of Rick, Don Vogt, was killed after being hit by a New York City cab.
With Eric Crawford, Pitino has written a book, The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life.
Author and accomplishmentsEdit
Pitino is the author of a motivational self-help book (and audio recording) named Success is a Choice. He published an autobiography in 1988 entitled Born to Coach, describing his life up until his time with the Knicks. His most recent book Rebound Rules, was the top seller at the 2008 Kentucky Book Fair.
In 2005, Pitino's Louisville team posted a tie for the most single-season wins in school history (33)—since surpassed by the 35 total wins by the 2013 NCAA title-winning Cardinals team—while he is one of two men's coaches in NCAA history to lead three separate schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four. The other coach is his in-state rival, John Calipari (UMass Amherst, Memphis, Kentucky), though both final four appearances at UMass and Memphis were later vacated (as was Louisville's 2013 title under Pitino).
As of 2020, Pitino's .740 winning percentage in 76 NCAA Tournament games ranked sixth among all coaches.
Thoroughbred horse racingEdit
Beyond basketball, Pitino has been involved in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing as the lead partner in Celtic Pride Stable and the Ol Memorial Stable. Among his notable horses have been A P Valentine and Halory Hunter. Pitino, through the stable name of RAP Racing, owns a 5 percent share of Goldencents. Goldencents, who won the $750,000 2013 Santa Anita Derby, ran in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and finished 17th despite having 8/1 odds of winning.
Extortion attempt against PitinoEdit
On April 18, 2009, Pitino announced that he was the target of an extortion attempt. On April 24, Karen Cunagin Sypher, the wife of Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher, was arraigned and charged in US District Court with extortion and lying to federal agents. The federal government alleged that Cunagin demanded vehicles and tuition money for her children from Pitino and later demanded $10 million from him. According to the federal complaint, the demands arose from an unspecified encounter between Sypher and Pitino.
On August 11, Pitino admitted that he had sexual relations with Cunagin on August 1, 2003 at Porcini, a Louisville restaurant. Several weeks later, Cunagin told Pitino that she was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion, but added she did not have health insurance. Pitino paid her $3,000 for the abortion. During the trial, Pitino downplayed the pair's sexual escapade, testifying that the entire act did not take more than 15 seconds. Cunagin claimed that her estranged husband, Tim Sypher, was paid to marry her.
At a press conference on August 12, Pitino apologized for his indiscretion and stated that he would remain as coach. While Pitino's contract allowed for his firing for "acts of moral depravity or misconduct that damages the university's reputation," University of Louisville president James Ramsey announced on August 13 that Pitino would remain in his position.
On August 6, 2010, a federal district court found Cunagin guilty of extortion and lying to federal agents. She was eventually sentenced to 87 months in prison. Cunagin was released to a halfway house in January 2017. After her conviction, Cunagin hired new attorneys and accused the judge, prosecutors, her former attorneys, and Pitino of taking part in a conspiracy to ensure that she was found guilty. She later expressed "exceptional remorse and contrition regarding her commission of her offenses".
Head coaching recordEdit
|Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (NCAA Division I independent) (1975–1976)|
|Boston University Terriers (NCAA Division I independent) (1978–1979)|
|Boston University Terriers (Eastern College Athletic Conference-North) (1979–1983)|
|1979–80||Boston University||21–9||19–7||T–1st||NIT Second Round|
|1982–83||Boston University||21–10||8–2||T–1st||NCAA Division I Preliminary Round|
|Boston University:||91–51 (.641)||46–24 (.657)|
|Providence Friars (Big East Conference) (1985–1987)|
|1986–87||Providence||25–9||10–6||4th||NCAA Division I Final Four|
|Providence:||42–23 (.646)||17–15 (.531)|
|Kentucky Wildcats (Southeastern Conference) (1989–1997)|
|1991–92||Kentucky||29–7||12–4||1st (East)||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|1992–93||Kentucky||30–4||13–3||2nd (East)||NCAA Division I Final Four|
|1993–94||Kentucky||27–7||12–4||2nd (East)||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|1994–95||Kentucky||28–5||14–2||1st (East)||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|1995–96||Kentucky||34–2||16–0||1st (East)||NCAA Division I Champion|
|1996–97||Kentucky||35–5||13–3||2nd (East)||NCAA Division I Runner-up|
|Kentucky:||219–50 (.814)||104–28 (.788)|
|Louisville Cardinals (Conference USA) (2001–2005)|
|2001–02||Louisville||19–13||8–8||T–8th||NIT Second Round|
|2002–03||Louisville||25–7||11–5||3rd||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|2003–04||Louisville||20–10^^^||9–7^^^||T–6th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|2004–05||Louisville||33–5||14–2||1st||NCAA Division I Final Four|
|Louisville Cardinals (Big East Conference) (2005–2013)|
|2006–07||Louisville||24–10||12–4||T–2nd||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|2007–08||Louisville||27–9||14–4||T–2nd||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|2008–09||Louisville||31–6||16–2||1st||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|2009–10||Louisville||20–13||11–7||T–5th||NCAA Round of 64|
|2010–11||Louisville||25–10||12–6||T–3rd||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|2011–12||Louisville||0–10 (30 wins, 1 loss vacated)||0–8 (10 wins vacated)||7th||NCAA Division I Final Four (vacated)|
|2012–13||Louisville||0–5 (35 wins vacated)||0–4 (14 wins vacated)||T–1st||NCAA Division I Champion (vacated)|
|Louisville Cardinals (American Athletic Conference) (2013–2014)|
|2013–14||Louisville||0–6 (31 wins, 1 loss vacated)||0–3 (15 wins vacated)||T–1st||NCAA Division I Sweet 16 (vacated)|
|Louisville Cardinals (Atlantic Coast Conference) (2014–2017)|
|2014–15||Louisville||0–9 (27 wins, 1 loss vacated)||0–6 (12 wins vacated)||4th||NCAA Division I Elite Eight (vacated)|
|2016–17||Louisville||25–9||12–6||T–2nd||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|Louisville:||293–143 (.672)||123–86 (.589)|
|Iona Gaels (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) (2020–present)|
|2020–21||Iona||12–6||6–3||9th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|Iona:||12–6 (.667)||6–3 (.667)|
Postseason invitational champion
^Kentucky was ineligible for both the NCAA and SEC Tournaments in 1990 and 1991 due to sanctions from the Eddie Sutton-era.
^^Kentucky finished first in the SEC standings. However, due to their probation, they were ineligible for the regular-season title; it was awarded to second-place LSU instead.
^^^Pitino did not coach in one win (January 28, 2004 vs. Houston) due to medical leave, but is credited with the victory.
^^^^Louisville self-imposed ineligibility for the 2015–16 postseason due to an ongoing NCAA investigation.
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win–loss %|
|Playoffs||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win–loss %|
|New York||1987–88||82||38||44||.463||2nd in Atlantic||4||1||3||.250||Lost in First Round|
|New York||1988–89||82||52||30||.634||1st in Atlantic||9||5||4||.556||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|Boston||1997–98||82||36||46||.439||6th in Atlantic||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|Boston||1998–99||50||19||31||.380||5th in Atlantic||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|Boston||1999–2000||82||35||47||.427||5th in Atlantic||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|Panathinaikos||2018–19||19||10||9||.526||Lost in Quarterfinals|
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