Pitino Resigns as Celtics Coach

ByABC News
January 8, 2001, 8:49 AM

W A L T H A M, Mass., Jan 8 -- Rick Pitino resigned as coach of the BostonCeltics today, unable to restore the NBAs most successfulfranchise to its former glory. His assistant, Jim OBrien, wasnamed interim head coach.

The Celtics confirmed the decision today.

I would like to thank Rick for his dedication and effort overthe last three plus seasons. I have greatly enjoyed ourrelationship and consider his work ethic to be without equal,team owner Paul Gaston said in a statement.

It has been a great privilege to coach the greatest basketballtradition in sports, Pitino said in a statement released todayby the team. I wish we could have accomplished more between thelines, but I am proud with the efforts of my staff and players.

Pitino said he would spend the next few weeks with his familyconsidering his future in basketball.

OBrien started his new job by leading practice on Sunday, whenPitino said he was taking the day off to mull his options. Pitinotold owner Gaston that he was through, and he reportedly gaveup the remaining 6½ years and $27 million on his contract to becoach and president.

The Celtics were to play the Portland Trail Blazers at theFleetCenter tonight.

Its Heartbreaking to Me

Pitino had hinted since the end of last season that he wouldleave if the team did not improve this season, his fourth as coachand president. But the tone of his comments became more immediateas the Celtics stumbled to a 12-22 record, leaving Pitino 102-146overall.

Pitino said in November he would meet with Gaston in mid-Januaryto discuss the team. If there wasnt any progress, Pitino promisedto finish the season and then leave.

On Saturday night, though, it became clear Pitino had changedhis mind. He hugged Paul Pierce as he came out of the game, andspoke afterward as if his mind were made up. Newspaper reports saidhe would step down as early as Sunday.

Sometimes change is good just for the sake of change whenthings arent going well, he told the Boston Herald after the 112-86 loss to Miami. Its heartbreaking to me, whats happened here. I love the Boston Celtics and Ill always be a fan.