Rick Pitino Says He Won't Return To Kentucky

Monday, March 26th 2007, 12:44 pm
By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Kentucky's search for its next basketball coach won't include Rick Pitino. Pitino said Monday that while he enjoyed his eight years with the Wildcats, he's happy coaching Louisville and wouldn't consider returning to the school he led to the national championship in 1996.

``I would never ever leave (Louisville) to go to another college because they're my family,'' Pitino said.

Though Pitino said he was ``shocked'' by Tubby Smith's sudden departure last week, he sees too much potential in the Cardinals to consider leaving. Louisville went 24-10 this season and finished second in the Big East before falling to Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

While Pitino acknowledged leaving Kentucky following the 1997 season was a ``mistake,'' he joked that at age 54 he's ``too old to leave'' Louisville, but understands why there's so much speculation about his interest in the job.

``It's a great job. I had eight years of Camelot, I've said that,'' he said. ``It's the Roman Empire of college basketball.''

Florida coach Billy Donovan, who played for Pitino at Providence and spent several years as a Kentucky assistant under Pitino, could be among the candidates to replace Smith. Pitino declined to speculate on whether Donovan is considering leaving Florida.

The defending national champions play UCLA in the Final Four on Saturday and are trying to become the first team since Duke in 1992 to win back-to-back titles.

``Billy is like a son to me and I stopped telling Billy what to do and what not to do in 1987,'' Pitino said. ``He's got a great opportunity right now. He's not thinking of anything else.''