Rick Pitino said Kentucky basketball fans can thank a golfing vacation in Ireland for his decision to turn down a lucrative offer from the New Jersey Nets and remain with the Wildcats.
Pitino said Monday night he was 99 percent certain he was going to accept the 5-year, $30 million-offer from the NBA team when he left May 26 for the golf excursion with university boosters."The Ireland trip was a fantastic one for me because it stopped me from making a hasty decision. If I had made the decision right away, I'd be coaching in New Jersey right now," he said at an airport news conference upon his return to Kentucky.
Instead, Pitino, 43, released a statement Thursday from Ireland that he had decided to reject the Nets' offer.
Pitino said Monday night that the trip allowed him time to think about what was best for his family.
"Sometimes when you make a hasty or spontaneous or quick decision you don't necessarily make the correct one," he said. "It became very apparent - very clear in my mind - after a few days of thought that for me to stay in Lexington, Ky., and coach basketball at the University of Kentucky, which has afforded myself and my family seven years of happiness, is the right thing to do."
The Nets' deal also included a 5 percent share of the team, a Manhattan apartment and 16 months' worth of mortgage payments for his $875,000 home in Lexington. Pitino would have become head coach, general manager and part owner of a team that last won an NBA playoff series in 1984.
The Nets job would have been Pitino's second stint in the NBA. The New York City native coached the New York Knicks from 1987-89, guiding them to a 90-74 mark and a division title. He left the pros in 1989 and was brought in to resuscitate a Kentucky program ravaged by probation.