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4 NBA teams Rick Pitino could dupe into hiring him, ranked

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Pitino dreams of coaching in the NBA again. Will any team hire him?

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Michigan v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Rick Pitino wants to be back in the NBA. But what NBA team would want Rick Pitino?

Pitino has been unemployed since being fired by Louisville one year ago in the aftermath of the FBI’s sprawling investigation into corruption throughout college basketball. Now Pitino plans on spending the year “immersing himself in the NBA game” in hopes of becoming a head coaching candidate ahead of the 2019-20 season, according to ESPN.

It’s been 21 years since the last time an NBA team was duped into hiring Pitino. The Boston Celtics gave Pitino a 10-year, $70 million contact to be head coach and president in 1997, fresh off his national championship run at Kentucky. That tenure was largely a disaster, with the Celtics firing him midway through his fourth season after compiling a 102-146 record. His stint in Boston is remembered mostly for his “Larry Bird isn’t walking through that door” rant.

At 66 years old, it would seem like a decidedly bad idea for a team to give Pitino a head coaching opportunity. Still, there are plenty of NBA teams that continue to be defined by questionable decision-making and have fallen for Pitino-like figures in the past.

Which team is most likely to fall for Pitino this time around? We have a few ideas.

4. Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The Kings check a lot of boxes for a potential Pitino team: a meddling owner, a history of questionable front office decisions, a constant yearning to make a big splash. Sacramento is the one team consistently tied John Calipari, so why not Pitino? The Kings also have the type of young roster Pitino would love to work with. He already has a close relationship with De’Aaron Fox, who he once almost landed as a recruit.

Conversely: hey, the Kings are actually kind of decent this year! Sacramento, at 3-3, currently has more wins than the Rockets, Thunder, Wolves, and Lakers. Dave Joerger is doing an impressive job so far. Don’t do it, Vivek.

3. Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

What a disaster the Wizards have been to start the season, coming out of the gates at 1-5 even as a road-heavy early schedule has done them no favors. This is year three of the Scott Brooks era, and it’s starting to seem like Washington is stagnating around John Wall and Bradley Beal.

The Wizards desperately need to do something to get them out of their consistent rut. What better way to do it than having Wall, Beal and Otto Porter deploy Pitino’s signature 1-2-1-1 zone press defense?

(Don’t answer that)

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Hey, the Cavs already have a head coaching opening! Ty Lue has been fired after the team’s 0-6 start, with Larry Drew installed as the interim coach. Apparently there were not enough wins or lessons for Cleveland management at the early part of this season.

If the Cavs want to fully separate themselves from the ghost of LeBron James, hiring another glitzy name like Pitino makes some sense. The Cavs are likely in for a long rebuild, and Pitino has a history of developing top young talent. What else do the Cavs have to lose? In a post-James world, the Cavs don’t have much going for them.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It’s time for Tom Thibodeau’s reign of terror in Minnesota to stop. Thibodeau clearly wants to keep star Jimmy Butler despite his trade demand and the indication that he wants to leave the franchise next summer as a free agent. It appears that owner Glen Taylor will have to go over Thibodeau’s head to get a Butler trade done, which shows a huge divide in priorities at the top of the organization.

The Wolves went for a big name last time they were in the market for a head coach with Thibodeau. Pitino would be another headline-stealing hire, even if it wouldn’t be a prudent long-term move. If nothing else, at least Gorgui Dieng would be happy.