The Rick Pitino Steamroller is picking up, err, steam. In case you missed it, Yahoo!'s respected Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Pitino has reached out to the Maloof family about the opening, and that the Maloofs are privately intrigued. In my mind I imagine the Maloof family -- Gavin, Joe, Phil, Mama, George, Adrienne, Uncle Phil -- sitting down to a nice Thursday night meal when someone blurts out "Rick Pitino!" This is followed by Gavin raising his eyebrow. (He loves a good plot twist.) Woj is hiding in a potted plant, hurriedly jotting down his impressions. This is how I imagine the family business works.
The one, err, hurdle I see in my personal acceptance of such a development is the lack of mention in Geoff Petrie in all of this. As in, it's another Maloof relationship. As in, it's not how the Maloofs promised things would go this time, which is that the search would be led by Petrie.
Maybe I'm too much a stickler for process, but I don't think the Kings want to be known as the team that hungry, big-name coaches can freeze time for. It seems to me, based on the reports out there and the timing, that Pitino just wants back in the pros. And he wants to make a lot of money in the pros. And there's only one opening in the pros, which happens to be an opening with the lowest expectations possible, billionaire owners, and a beloved former player (Francisco Garcia). Maybe on the outside it appears there's also a power vacuum, which would also serve Pitino's interest well.
Woj mentions that Pitino wouldn't want as much control as he had in Boston. He would still require too much control. This is a problem I think affects many college coaches who comes to the bigs, not just the huge names like Pitino: if things go poorly, they can blame the circumstances a lot easier than they can in a college program. In college, they pick all the players! They have immense power to shape the team. In the pros? They are just coaches, that's it. At one point they made personnel decisions (Pitino in Boston, for example), but now 90% of the league's coaches are just coaches.
And maybe I'm wrong, but Pitino has never been lauded as the greatest Xs and Os guy in the world. He's a masterful recruiter, and apparently a helluva motivator. But recruitment means jack in the NBA, and motivation only goes so far for what will almost certainly be a lottery team.
The most potent argument coming from the pro-Pitino legions is summed up in this passage from Pro Basketball News' Sam Amico:
Pitino is no Larry Brown or Phil Jackson, but he would make a splash and the Kings could definitely use one. I'm not sure why he would want the Kings job, especially since he seems to have a good thing going at the collegiate level at Louisville. (As one media member half-jokingly suggested, maybe he's afraid of new Kentucky coach John Calipari.) But if I'm the Kings, I don't ask Pitino why -- I just ask how much. As in, how much money will it take for you to be our next coach?
Sadly, there are other guys out there who are probably more qualified for the job. Former Washington (and Kings) coach Eddie Jordan is said to be the frontrunner. Former Charlotte and Golden State (and current Detroit assistant) Dave Cowens is also in the mix, as is former Phoenix coach Paul Westphal. But none bring the hype that would follow Pitino to an organization that's in dire need of it.
The Kings do not need hype on the sidelines. The Kings do not need a splash on the bench. The Kings need better players, and a coaching staff that can maximize their potential and production on the court. We have done pizzazz! His name was Reggie Theus. The team's attendance dissolved under him. Coaches do not sell tickets, and big names don't automatically.win games. (See: Russell, Bill, 1989.)
This team needs a good coach, someone who will have at least one teacher on his staff, and who will (hopefully) keep Pete Carril around to work with the kids. This team needs a coach who can manage the roster in a sensible fashion, rewarding strong work ethic while respecting the dire need to a) win more games, and b) develop the youth. This team needs a coach who will seamlessly fit the franchise, not provide distraction (with neon lights [Theus] or police sirens [Musselman]).
Jesus in a three-piece suit isn't walking through that door. It is my hope that Rick Pitino will also not be walking through that door, either.