The Nets said they don't want Rick Pitino.
Rick Pitino said he doesn't want the Nets.
|Rick Pitino's handling of the Nets situation allows him to maintain 'plausible deniability.' (Getty Images)|
Would Pitino ever make the call?
Things don't work that way.
The way they work is that somebody connected to Pitino would make it clear to somebody connected to the Nets that he'd be interested if they were interested -- which is basically what the New York Daily News reported Thursday morning -- and then that person would wait for some feedback. Think of it as two kids discussing a middle school dance. You know, something like this:
Jimmy's friend: Between you and me, Jimmy would probably go to the dance with Susie if Susie wanted to go with Jimmy.
Susie's friend: Really? Let me see what I can find out.
(Forty-five minutes later)
Susie's friend: I talked to Susie, and I don't think she wants to go with Jimmy.
Jimmy's friend: Yeah, well Jimmy didn't really want to go with Susie, either. He actually hates her.
Susie's friend: Who cares? Susie hates Jimmy, too.
And on and on we go. Officially, out on the playground during recess, Jimmy never wanted Susie and Susie sure as hell never wanted Jimmy. So Jimmy saves face, takes a shot at another seventh-grader, and life moves forward with everybody denying everything.
This is essentially how things work in the world of coaching searches.
As for Pitino specifically, just use common sense.
He's stuck in a tough league in a city where he's now more famous for an affair than basketball. John Calipari is right down the road, recruiting pros and chatting with President Obama, and every time Pitino travels to opposing arenas, he's greeted with chants of "Karen Sypher." Even if he and his wife have worked through things, you know his wife watches games, and she hears those chants, and it must be difficult.
Meantime, the Nets job is available. There's going to be a new owner with lots of money to spend, and a new arena plus the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft are likely on the way.
So to everybody who thinks coaching the Nets is a "bad" job, I ask this: How bad would it be to work in the New York market and for an owner with deep pockets while inheriting a 19-year-old John Wall (and perhaps a free agent named LeBron James)?
So if Pitino is interested, I don't blame him.
And if the Nets offered, I think he'd have to take it.
But what happened here, I'm sure, is the same thing that happened to Calipari several years ago when the Sixers job was open. On a random weeknight, Stephen A. Smith went on television and said -- yelled, actually -- that Calipari was interested in the Sixers job, and that he ought to get the Sixers job because he'd be perfect for the Sixers job. Immediately, Calipari released a statement emphatically saying he was uninterested in a return to the NBA, happy in Memphis and without plans to ever leave.
Memphis fans celebrated Calipari's "loyalty."
But the reality is that Calipari had already learned the Sixers weren't going to be looking his direction by the time Smith went on television, which allowed Calipari to pledge his allegiance to Memphis because it's senseless to acknowledge you want to take Susie to the middle school dance when you already know Susie doesn't want to go with you. In all likelihood, this is similar, regardless of what anybody says.
Bottom line, I believe Pitino would take the Nets job. Just like I believe Calipari would take the LeBron job (wherever it is). Just like I believe the majority of people would take any job so long as it was better than their current job. But what the majority of people won't do is publicly express interest in another job while they still have their current job, and if they already know they're not getting the other job by the time word spreads that they're interested in the other job, well, then they'll just deny interest as strongly as they can.
As I explained, this has been going on for years.
It starts in middle school and we never grow out of it.