Louisville: Pitino says he's staying put

Updated: May 8, 2009, 1:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Rick Pitino has been around the NBA block twice now. Will there be a third time? At least not at the moment.

Responding to an Internet report that said the Louisville coach is a candidate for the Sacramento Kings job, university spokesperson Kenny Klein said he spoke to Pitino on Friday morning and Pitino said he has no intention of leaving the Cardinals.

"He's not going to the Sacramento Kings," Klein told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

NBA coaching sources confirmed to ESPN.com that contact with the Kings was initiated by Pitino's camp. Sacramento never considered him as it began drafting a list of potential candidates to replace Kenny Natt.

"I think he's a great coach and he's done an unbelievable job at Louisville," Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof said, according to Yahoo! Sports, "but we haven't talked to him."

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich told ESPN.com's Pat Forde, "I'm sure they're interested [in Pitino]. He's not going anywhere."

Pitino has coached two NBA teams. He went 90-74 with the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and 102-146 with the Boston Celtics from 1997 to 2001.

Sources said the Kings have yet to commence the interview process with any of their targets and that Pitino would appear to be a considerable long shot for Sacramento even if he were willing to leave Louisville for a return to the NBA. It's believed that Pitino would cost far more than the Maloof brothers, co-owners Joe and Gavin, are willing to spend for a coach, with Pitino's flamboyance also seen as a complicated fit alongside Kings longtime low-key team president Geoff Petrie.

The Maloofs are unpredictable and known to be swayed by star power given their well-chronicled Las Vegas ties, but sources insist Eddie Jordan remains the firm favorite to become coach at this early juncture, although Philadelphia's expected interest in Jordan as a replacement for interim coach Tony DiLeo could complicate the Kings' pursuit. Because Washington owes Jordan an estimated $4 million next season, either team could offer him a salary in the $2 million range for next season, knowing that the Wizards would have to pay the difference up to $4 million.

Other candidates whom Sacramento is expected to speak to about its vacancy include coaching veterans Paul Westphal and Del Harris and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis, although Rambis is expected to be occupied with the playoffs into June. It's believed that TNT analyst Mike Fratello has also expressed interest in the position.

It remains to be seen if Pitino's flirtation with the Kings piques the interest of other NBA teams, despite the confidence of Louisville officials that he is staying in the college ranks. The 76ers, for example, are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances in contrast to the 17-65 Kings. The Sixers also already have a handful of players well-equipped to play the up-tempo style Pitino prefers.

Pitino just finished his eighth season with the Cardinals, leading Louisville to a 31-6 record and the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. The Cardinals lost to Michigan State in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.

In 1999-2000, his last full season as an NBA coach, Pitino's Celtics lost 47 games. Over his last five seasons at Louisville, he's lost 43 games combined. Pitino has had one winning season as an NBA coach and just one losing season as a college coach.

The coach has had an unsettling offseason since leading the Cardinals to the Elite Eight in March. He's involved in an extortion case involving the estranged wife of a member of his basketball staff. Pitino filed charges against the woman, Karen Sypher, whom federal authorities arrested and charged on April 24.

Pitino's son, Richard, a Louisville assistant, also left his staff to take a job on Billy Donovan's staff at Florida.

Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein, The Associated Press and ESPN's Stats and Analysis department was used in this report.