Pitino not interested in return to NBA

Updated: February 12, 2010, 3:52 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Louisville coach Rick Pitino is denying a newspaper report that he's interested in a return to the NBA with the New Jersey Nets.

"There's not an ounce of truth to it," Pitino told ESPN.com's Pat Forde.

"I have no interest, period," Pitino said Thursday. "I'm done with coaching professional basketball. I've put the professional ranks behind me."

The New York Daily News reported Thursday that sources close to Pitino said the former Boston Celtics and New York Knicks coach had reached out to Nets brass in recent days and had intermediaries recently contact Nets president Rod Thorn on his behalf.

A source close to Thorn said the Nets' president has denied that he spoke to Pitino, the Daily News reported. Later Thursday, Thorn sent a text message to The Newark Star-Ledger saying: "Have not had any contact with Pitino. To my knowledge, no one in our organization has, either."

Sources within the organization told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that Pitino may have gone through a third party to get word of his interest to people close to incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire expected to be approved by the NBA's board of governors next month.

A source close to Pitino who exchanged text messages with Pitino on Thursday morning told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that there was no truth to the report about Pitino having any direct or indirect contact with the Nets.

The source close to Pitino told Katz that while Pitino did speak with Thorn at the funeral for former New York Knicks player and coach Dick McGuire earlier this week, that conversation was the sort one would normally have at a funeral -- not about a job.

I'm done with coaching professional basketball. I've put the professional ranks behind me.

-- Rick Pitino

The Nets are a woeful 4-48 and on pace to match or eclipse the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73) for the league's all-time futility record.

The source told ESPN.com that Pitino continues to recruit as much as possible for the 2011 and 2012 recruiting classes and beyond and has been on the road as much as allowed under NCAA regulations.

The source also said that contrary to the Daily News report, Pitino has not been worn down by a pending extortion case in which a former mistress has been charged.

Last year, Pitino told police that he had consensual sex in 2003 with a woman currently facing charges of attempting to extort him. The woman, Karen Cunagin Sypher, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of trying to extort money from Pitino, lying to the FBI and intimidating a witness. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

After the allegations became public, Pitino told reporters the situation had been "pure hell" for his family.

Louisville has struggled at times this season while the Bluegrass State's basketball fans have been caught up in Kentucky's return to prominence. The Wildcats (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP), sparked by freshman phenom John Wall, are 23-1 overall, 8-1 in the SEC and lead the SEC East. The Cardinals (15-8, 6-4) are sixth in the 16-team Big East.

Pitino's personal issues returned to the spotlight when fans in the student section at West Virginia chanted Sypher's name at Pitino during a game in Morgantown last month. During one of the chants, which occurred during a timeout, WVU coach Bob Huggins motioned toward the students to quiet down.

But Pitino dismissed any connection between that incident and suggestions that the grind of his job is wearing on him.

"Because of what happened at West Virginia, I'm worn out?" he told ESPN's Forde. "I've been on the road recruiting, I've been working 18-hour days, and I'm worn out because I went into a place where they denigrate everybody?"

Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein also denied that there had been any contact from Pitino to the Nets in any form. Klein said Pitino has shown no signs of being tired of Louisville and is working toward securing a top-five recruiting class in 2011.

Pitino said he has no interest in leaving Louisville and that the only job he's looked into in nine years here was Providence, because of his ties there, and that he informed Louisville about that communication before deciding to stay with the Cardinals. Pitino coached Providence to the 1987 Final Four.

"When someone speaks an untruth it's a bit of a distraction," he said after Louisville's loss to St. John's on Thursday. "I want to just concentrate on coaching and playing. When people speak an untruth, it bothers you. There is no truth to it. ... I've been at Louisville for nine years and I want to coach till I'm 65 and I hope it's at Louisville and I hope they'll have me. It's a distraction, a nuisance."

According to Klein, the contact between Pitino and Providence came at the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio, after Tim Welsh was fired as coach. Providence ultimately hired Drake's Keno Davis.

"I can tell you that I won't be surprised if Coach Pitino is here for a long time," Klein said.

ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde, ESPN.com college basketball writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.