ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rick Pitino has won his first game in Greece, coaching troubled Panathinaikos to a 96-84 victory over CSKA Moscow on Friday night in Europe’s main competition.
The victory came two days after he arrived in Athens to take over Panathinaikos (pronounced pa-nath-een-eye-KHOS). He said the enthusiasm from the home fans made him feel as if he was still in Kentucky.
The 66-year-old Hall of Fame coach helped end a losing streak for the team that sank to elimination position in the 16-team Euroleague.
Pitino was fired by Louisville a year ago amid a corruption investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing. Pitino coached Kentucky and Louisville to NCAA titles, but the one with Louisville was vacated.
“People said we couldn’t shoot — if you pass the ball, you can shoot. If you stand around the defense will make to take bad shots. So we moved the basketball with the exception of a 5-minute spurt.”
Ioannis Papapetrou led for the Greeks with 17 points, but former Memphis Grizzlies point guard Nick Calathes was the standout, keeping Moscow from retaking the lead in the final quarter.
Pitino, Calathes said, had hit the team’s reset button.
“You could tell we were more hungry out there, we were more tenacious, defensively, offensively,” he said. “You know, it was just a great win and hopefully, everything will build off this for the next games.”
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