Rick Pitino Shares Crazy Stories From His Time Coaching In Greece

Rick Pitino recently joined Fran Fraschilla’s “World of Basketball” podcast to tell some stories about his time coaching the Panathinaikos B.C. team in Greece, a team that he led to a Greek Cup Championship in 2019. Rick is back in the States and was hired this spring to be the next coach at Iona.

Pitino on Greek team owner Dimitrios Giannakopoulos:

“My wife, she says to me you have to go basketball is in your blood. She wakes up on Christmas Eve and says you can’t go. I said ‘why?’ She says, ‘I just googled the owner ’. ‘So what does it say?’ ‘It said he was fined $300,000. After a victory, he went into the official’s locker rooms and threatened the mothers, the daughters, the sisters of all the referees. And told the referees they would not get out of Greece alive’.

But in reality, he’s a really good guy. He’s actually very shy and very quiet away from the game. But during the game, he and his uncle (the late Thanassis Giannakopoulos), they’d go berserk.   He smokes five packs of cigarettes per day. He’s in his mid-40s. But a good guy. He loves the team and he’s losing a lot of money. I had a good relationship with him and still to this day I have a good relationship with him.”

Rick told Fran that the owner he worked for lost around $8 million personally per year and EuroLeague teams make about $1 million a year from television. It's no wonder Dimitrios smokes five packs of cigs a day.

Pitino on Greek basketball rivalry games:

“All rivalries you mention. First and foremost. your bench is shielded with bulletproof glass. And then you have a net around the court so the hooligans can’t throw things. You have certain sections at Olympiacos as well as Panathinaikos. And this year, my owner had to leave at halftime because he was threatened with a guy holding a hand grenade. The guy had a hand grenade if he didn’t leave. You are walked in with a 100 policemen with shields, as you are walked in the arena.

Fortunately, the Olympiacos people somewhat like me. There are people who are Green that wouldn’t even say hello to. And I think it was because I was the national team coach as well.”

Wait a minute, there are hand grenade threats at Greek basketball games? I might have to start paying attention to this league. I watched :30 of YouTube clips and the energy in the building is way cooler than anything the NBA puts out. It looks like they're playing basketball in a soccer stadium and flares could be shot off at any minute.

Written by
Joe Kinsey is the Senior Director of Content of OutKick and the editor of the Morning Screencaps column that examines a variety of stories taking place in real America. Kinsey is also the founder of OutKick’s Thursday Night Mowing League, America’s largest virtual mowing league. Kinsey graduated from University of Toledo.