The New Zealand Breakers' search for a new head coach is taking them into some interesting territory.
Two weeks after Paul Henare stepped aside as Breakers coach, the club today confirmed reports that they have been in discussions with controversial former Boston Celtics and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, though Pitino quickly poured cold water on the idea.
The Breakers had reportedly offered their head coaching role to Pitino - an excellent coach with a bevy of accomplishments - but who had come under fire in the past year after being let go at Louisville over a scandal where the school were investigated for paying players.
The investigation alleged that an Adidas representative attempted to pay the families of high school prospects to play at Louisville, and then link with Adidas when they turned professional.
Due to the unjust nature of the NCAA college basketball system, players aren't allowed to be paid, despite creating the bulk of the revenue, and despite protesting his innocence, Pitino was fired after being linked to the scheme.
Louisville also had their 2013 title and 2012 Final Four successes under Pitino vacated by the NCAA, after an investigation over an escort sex scandal involving recruits. As a result of that scandal, in 2017, Pitino was charged by the NCAA with "failure to monitor his basketball program", and suspended for five games.
Surprisingly, the Breakers are interested in his services, with General Manager Dillon Boucher confirming to NZME that discussions have taken place.
"I can confirm that we have spoken with Coach Pitino's representatives but we will not be commenting on an active coaching search," Boucher said.
For his part, Pitino quickly dismissed the idea.
"It's total BS — someone trying to poke fun at me," Pitino told the Louisville Courier Journal.
"Lot of comedians out of work."
That comment likely refers to the Pardon My Take podcast, the hosts of whom have an stake in the Breakers new ownership group, and regularly poke fun at Pitino.
For many reasons, the partnership between the Breakers and Pitino was never likely to happen, but this is another sign that the Breakers are going to plonk themselves right in the middle of the sporting news cycle this offseason - for better or for worse.