By Dionysis Aravantinos / firstname.lastname@example.org
Panathinaikos OPAP Athens managed to qualify for the playoffs, after winning seven of its last eight games and Rick Pitino was delighted with his team’s efforts in the post-game presser, while also admitting that the trip to Greece might end up being his saving grace.
Nick Calathes had a historic triple-double in the game against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, and after the final buzzer, his coach praised him, calling him the MVP: “I’m elated. Nick Calathes got his first triple-double, and if he’s not MVP of the league I don’t know who is because he’s brilliant. James Gist gave us a big life, all the guys played terrifically. I replaced an outstanding coach. He’s every bit as good as me or any other coach in the EuroLeague. But the guys had to change their culture, for defense and offense, they had to change their whole mindset. Because they were hanging their heads when they lost rather than doing something about it. So I give the guys all the credit in the world because they changed the culture. And now we’re in sixth place, going to the playoffs. Because we play so hard, and we’ve got such a great attitude, of course, we’re dangerous. But I don’t think Real Madrid will lose sleep because they’re at home. We’re super-excited to reach the playoffs.”
Team owner, Dimitris Giannakopoulos praised his head coach, Rick Pitino, stating that he wants the legendary coach to remain at Panathinaikos for the next years: “It’s a huge honor for our team, to have the legendary coach, Rick Pitino coaching. Hopefully, he will remain with us for years to come.”
In the press-conference of Panathinaikos – Buducnost, Pitino responded with the following statement: “I thank him for that. When you coach for 43 years, to have that experience is one of the big treats in your life, because everybody I’ve met has been fantastic to me. I wrote a book called ‘One Day Contract’ and it’s the key to my success. When we won a championship in 2013, we were on such a great run, I said: I’ve written books for other people, I’m going to write this book for myself. Everything is based on one day of your life. My mind races at night to prepare for practice, then it’s how you treat people with respect. It’s how you motivate staff and players. And at the end of the night, if you look in the mirror and say you renew your contract for another day, you’ve had a successful day. So, when people ask me if I’m going to stay, I tell them that I don’t think that way. All I think about is the next day. Right now this day is not over, so wait to see how much fun I’m going to have tonight. We dedicated this game to the memory of Thanassis Giannakopoulos. He’d be so happy for what these guys overcame this year to reach the sixth spot. He is smiling from heaven. I would like to congratulate Panathinaikos’ organization.”
And at the end, Pitino talked about the FBI investigation into bribery and fraud in college basketball that pushed him out of the NCAA. “You don’t know the full story“, he said Calmy. “I’ve never given an illegal inducement, not once not even ten dollars, when they did that to me they made me look guilty of something, I have no problem on them firing me. but the way they did it made me looked guilty of something and that bothered me. I could let go of the bitterness because of Panathinaikos… If I didn’t have that, I probably couldn’t have let it go.“