Thursday, February 11th 2010, 4:00 AMAntonelli/News Louisville coach Rick Pitino gives instructions to his team during the 2009 Big East Tournament.
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Sources close to Pitino said that the Louisville coach has reached out to Nets brass in recent days, making himself a candidate for the job now held by GM and interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, and due to open after their woeful season is completed in April.
According to sources, Pitino had intermediaries recently contact Nets president Rod Thorn on his behalf. Thorn himself is in the final year of a contract, and is looking to get a new deal from incoming owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
A source close to Thorn said the Nets' president has denied that he spoke to Pitino, while Pitino's camp insists that "no direct contact" was made between the coach and team. Earlier this week, Pitino and Thorn attended the funeral of Knicks Hall of Famer Dick McGuire.
"Pitino is interested in the job," said a high-ranking team official, who added that the interest is all one way, coming from Pitino's side.
The Nets have drawn up a short list of candidates, starting with former Knick coach Jeff Van Gundy. But indications are that Pitino is not on the list and likely will not be included in a search.
Sources close to Pitino, 57, say the ex-Knick coach and native of Long Island continues to be worn down from the Louisville sex scandal that erupted last summer and almost cost him his job. In terms of basketball, friends say that he feels a threat from in-state arch-rival Kentucky, which has put itself back into the national spotlight with first-year coach John Calipari and one of the top recruiting classes in recent years.
Vandeweghe was forced to take over the team after the Nets fired Lawrence Frank when they went 0-16 to start the season. With the Nets challenging the Sixers' all-time mark for most losses in a season, Vandeweghe is obviously not a candidate. But that was also made clear by the team when he took the job on an interim basis. Moreover, Vandeweghe could be in jeopardy of not getting an extension to continue as GM when his contract expires after this season.
Pitino's last NBA job, as the Celtics' coach and top basketball executive, was a disaster. His run in Boston ended in his fourth season after missing the playoffs for three straight seasons and posting a 12-22 record in year four.
With Julian Garcia and Dick Weiss
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