Rick Pitino to meet with J.J. Barea
DALLAS -- Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino will meet Sunday in Miami with Puerto Rican national team members J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo. It is expected he will then fly to Puerto Rico on Monday to accept an offer to become the team's next head coach.
Barea, the Dallas Mavericks' backup point guard, will be in Miami on Sunday to play Arroyo's Heat on Monday. He said Pitino wants to meet with Puerto Rico's only NBA players before finalizing the deal.
"He's very excited and it's almost a done deal," Barea said Wednesday before the Mavs faced the Portland Trail Blazers. "And I'm excited for it. We need a guy like that. It's going to help us as a team."
Pitino would effectively become Puerto Rico's Coach K. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski led the All-Star squad of NBA players on the United States national team to the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Games and at last summer's FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
Pitino would guide Puerto Rico in next summer's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Argentina, and then, if it qualifies, in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Barea said Puerto Rico typically prefers to stick with its own, but the failure to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, plus last summer's disappointing first-round ousting at the World Championships in Turkey, prompted Puerto Rican Basketball Federation president Carlos J. Beltran to contact Pitino.
"He'll bring defense and discipline and I think guys will listen to him more than they listen to the guys in Puerto Rico just because he's Rick Pitino," Barea said. "I think that will help."
Puerto Rico last qualified for the Olympics in 2004 in Athens, where they beat the U.S. 92-73 in the Americans' Olympic opener. Barea was not on that team, but he dreams of playing in London.
"We're going to try something different. This year we are going to take a chance and see what happens," Barea said of turning to Pitino. "We have to finish in the top three over there [in Argentina]. We're going to have a really good chance."
Barea met Pitino during his high school days in Miami and he played one season in college under Pitino's son, Richard, who was an assistant at Northeastern.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.