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29 June
04 July, 2021
Greece announce Naismith Hall of Famer Pitino as coach for next summer's OQT
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Greece announce Pitino as coach for FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

ATHENS (Greece) - Greece on Friday made the big announcement that Rick Pitino is to coach the national team starting with next year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The 67-year-old, who made his name as a hugely successful coach in the NCAA with schools like Providence, Kentucky and Louisville, also had spells in the NBA with the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.

He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Pitino's last job as a coach in the United States was with the Louisville Cardinals, a university team he parted ways with in October 2017.

He returned to bench, and coached for the first time in Europe, at Panathinaikos last season, taking over in late December. Pitino steered the team to Greek Cup glory, and a Greek league title.

The Greece appointment is not his first in international basketball. He coached Puerto Rico at the 2015 FIBA Americup in Mexico City, guiding the Boricuas to four wins in eight games and a fifth-place finish.

The Greeks are coming off a disappointing FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, where they finished third in Second Round Group K behind the United States and Czech Republic and therefore did not progress to the Quarter-Finals.

Greece star Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the world

Pitino will be expected to have reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother, fellow Milwaukee Bucks player Thanasis, in the Olympic qualifiers squad as well as Nick Calathes, the point guard on the Panathinaikos team he coached last season, and Fenerbahce sharpshooter Kostas Sloukas.

There will be four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments staged on June 23-28, with a draw to sort teams held on November 27.

In 2008, there was only one qualifying tournament and it was staged at OAKA in Greece. The Greeks clinched one of the three spots on offer for the Beijing Games at the event.

Greece also played at the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in 2012, in Caracas, and 2016, in Turin, and came up short of Olympic qualification.