The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the midst of a coaching search once again under the ownership of Dan Gilbert. In fact, once they hire a new head coach, it’ll be the sixth head coach he’s hired since purchasing the franchise in 2005.
While it appeared that Koby Altman was going to lead the search for the next head coach, it appears that Gilbert is once again trying to get the big-name hire.
Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey reported on Saturday night that Gilbert has spoken with Rick Pitino about the opening. There is no additional information because Vecsey writes behind a paywall through Patreon.
Pitino has been coaching overseas in Greece since December 2018 and led Panathinaikos B.C. to the Greek Cup and a sixth-place finish in the Euroleague this past season.
The longtime college coach was fired by the University of Louisville in 2017 after a corruption scandal involving Adidas giving money to a recruit in order to get him to attend the school.
Pitino does have NBA experience, as he was the head coach of the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 with a 90-74 record and then the head coach/president of the Boston Celtics from 1997 to 2001 with a 102-146 record.
In an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski last fall, Pitino expressed an interest to get back to the NBA.
“I just want to be a part of an organization,” Pitino told ESPN. “I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I’m using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I’d have deep interest in it.
“I think the league is going to get younger and player development will become even more important to every organization. That’s my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success.”
It doesn’t surprise me that Gilbert is attempting to hire a big name coach once again because he has a track record of going “big name hunting”.
In 2010, he pursued Tom Izzo before Izzo decided to stay at Michigan State and in 2014, even with David Griffin as the general manager, Gilbert pursued Kentucky head coach John Calipari and offered him the team president position.
It’s Gilbert’s team and he can run it how he sees fit, but I think he should finally let the people he put in position in the front office, actually do their job in order to get the Cavaliers back on track to relevancy, instead of the mediocrity they’ve been without LeBron James.
While Pitino would seem to fit the mold of what the organization reportedly wants in their next coach, someone who is good at player development, I’m not sure he truly fits the long-term plan.
I think Koby Altman is looking for a young, up and coming assistant coach that will grow alongside the young core of Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr. and whoever they draft in June’s NBA Draft.
Names like Nuggets assistants Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr., Heat assistant Juwan Howard and Mavericks assistant Jahamal Mosley have been linked to the job and seem like better fits long-term.
Pitino will be 67 years old by the time the 2019-20 NBA season begins and at this point, I think he’s likely trying to stay relevant so that people don’t forget him. He’s a great coach but I think his potential return to the NBA has passed him by.