was his responses to his questions about his time in the NBA. Stan Van Gundy, while a great head coach himself, did not have the very best time in his final season in Orlando dealing with the pouty Dwight Howard.
What did Pitino think of his two stints in the NBA, one in New York and one in Boston?
Do you regret at all going to the pros?
“No. I loved going to the Knicks because we won the Atlantic Division championship. We went from winning 21 games or 19 games to winning 52 games in a short period of time. I loved coaching Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and all those guys. I think I do regret leaving Kentucky because I took over a team with 15 wins banking everything on the Tim Duncan lottery, and once we didn’t get Tim Duncan I realized that leaving Kentucky was not a good move.”
If you would have gotten Tim Duncan how would it all have been different?
“Well it’s the same thing with the Knicks and Patrick Ewing. I’m winning 52, 55, 57 games and I am a pretty good coach trying to attract other free agents to play with them. Because Tim Duncan not only has the game, but he has the attitude and he played for a no-nonsense coach in Popovich, and not to mention I think he made Gregg Popovich one of the premiere head coaches in the history of the NBA and vice versa. When you get a Tim Duncan, you are getting something really, really special, not only as a basketball player, but with an incredible attitude. Very similar to coaching Patrick Ewing, so I was blessed to have Patrick and Mark Jackson and Charles Oakley. They were great for me. They did whatever I asked them to do and we averaged 116.8 points per game and I had a lot of fun coaching those guys.”
So, what comes first, the coach or the player? From the sound of it, there’s a little bit of both. Would Duncan have been as successful playing somewhere outside of San Antonio — say, Boston, and with Rick Pitino, for instance?
The world will never know, but the coach sure seems convinced of it.