Pitino has since said he would never have taken the job if he’d known how the lottery would turn out. Last March, he said he would leave if the team didn’t make the playoffs, giving up what’s left on his reported 10-year, $50 million contract if the Celtics don’t make the postseason this year.
“All I would be doing if I stayed at that point is trying to take Paul Gaston’s money,” he said. “If I don’t see a major difference in our ball club and we’re still struggling, I think enough’s enough. What I will do is just go on and try my next job and wish everybody well.”
Not at the Top of His Game
The Celtics have lost 11 of their last 14 games, allowing 100 or more points in nine of those games. This would be an unprecedented eighth consecutive losing season for a franchise that had never before gone more than four years in a row without a winning record.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you put on a Boston Celtics uniform, or when you get the title of head coach of the Celtics. There’s a lot of pressure in that job,” Pierce said Sunday. “We really haven’t fulfilled the expectations put on us.
“I just want him to make the decision that’s going to make him happy. … I don’t know how happy he was lately.”
Pitino played at UMass and coached at Boston University and Providence, two programs he took from mediocrity to the NCAA tournament. He spent two seasons with the New York Knicks, taking them to the playoffs in 1989 for the first time in four years.
Then he took over a Kentucky team that had been on probation, leading it to the Final Four three times in eight seasons, winning the NCAA title in 1996. Before joining the Celtics, he had just two losing seasons in 17 years.
Antoine Walker, who also played for Pitino at Kentucky, said he still hoped the team could turn things around with its current personnel.
“Right now, I would prefer not going through an adjustment,” he said. “But you have to respect and understand what he’s going through. If he’s not going to be at the top of his profession, then obviously he needs to move on.”