Pitino won't coach Puerto Rico team

University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino will not coach the Puerto Rico national basketball team in preparation for a 2011 pre-Olympic qualifying tournament because of conflicts which would occur with the U of L team.

Louisville, Ky. -- University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino will not coach the Puerto Rico national basketball team in preparation for a 2011 pre-Olympic qualifying tournament because of conflicts which would occur with the U of L team.

Additional commitments arose from the original plan that did not blend with Pitino's duties with the Cardinals. Pitino had also hoped to take a foreign trip with his 2011-12 U of L team at the same time while coaching the Puerto Ricans. An NCAA appeal to allow the Cardinals to visit Puerto Rico as its foreign trip was denied and an acceptable site for the foreign trip where both teams could visit simultaneously could not be arranged. Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States and is not considered a foreign site under NCAA rules.

The bottom line is that Pitino took the position for the challenge of qualifying for the Olympics and for the benefits it may bring to the Cardinals' program, and the recent developments did not allow for Pitino to properly address both.

"I was so looking forward to coaching the Puerto Rico national team, but too many conflicts arose," said Pitino. "It is a great disappointment that we cannot take on the challenge to help them qualify for the Olympics. We were hoping to arrange for both the Puerto Rico and our U of L teams to play at the same foreign site, which could not be accommodated. An additional tournament in Brazil would have also kept me from being in Louisville at a key time for the start of the fall semester."

Louisville loses one starter -- Preston Knowles -- from its 25-10 team which exceeded expectations by tying for third in the BIG EAST Conference, earning 20 wins for the ninth-straight season, reaching the title game of the BIG EAST Championship, defeating seven Top 25 teams and rising to as high as 11th in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. Adding the Cardinals' incoming top 10 recruiting class of four impressive high school and prep products to the successful returning group makes a foreign trip and the 10 permissible advance practices attractive for U of L this season.

Pitino had planned to coach the Puerto Rican team in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship basketball tournament to be played in Mar del Plata, Argentina on Aug. 25- Sept. 8, 2011 at the 8,000-seat Polideportivo Islas Malvinas. Puerto Rico must finish among the top two teams to advance to the 2012 Olympics in London.

Three current NBA players are members of the Puerto Rico team, including Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Barea, Miami Heat guard Carlos Arroyo and Denver Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman. Puerto Rico last qualified for the Olympics in 2004, finishing sixth after beating the United States on its way to a sixth-place finish. It did not qualify for the 2000 or 2008 Olympics.


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