Ex-Kentucky star says Pitino is going to Boston

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Is Rick Pitino staying at the University of Kentucky or going to the Boston Celtics?
Pitino didn’t reveal his decision during a meeting with his Kentucky players Sunday night, but Antoine Walker thinks he knows the answer.
“I got the feeling he’s coming (to Boston),” Walker, a former Kentucky star who now plays for the Celtics, told The Boston Globe after speaking with Pitino on Sunday.
Walker, who played on Kentucky’s national championship team in 1996, was shooting baskets in the school gym when Pitino arrived for the meeting with his players. Walker said he would love to play for Pitino again.
“It would be great having Coach Pitino as coach again,” he said. “It wouldn’t be great just for me, but for everybody.”
Pitino, who has been sought by many NBA teams over the years, is expected to make a decision within a few days.
The Celtics, who posted a franchise-worst 15-67 record this season, have made Pitino a highly lucrative offer. The value of the financial package has been estimated from $40 million to more than $70 million.
But Pitino, who played basketball at the University of Massachusetts and coached at Boston University, told the Globe that if he returned to Boston “it would be for the challenge and not for the money.”
Pitino said his emotional connection with his Kentucky players has made the decision difficult. He said if the Celtics’ offer “had come up 10 years ago, it would have been a no-brainer. I’d have been gone to the Celtics in an instant.”
Kentucky forward Scott Padgett called his parents in Louisville after Sunday night’s meeting.
“They don’t know anything except Coach (Pitino) is considering it,” the player’s father, Wilbur, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The players don’t think they’ll know anything before Tuesday or Wednesday.”
A Lexington television station, WKYT, said the Celtics’ offer to Pitino has been increased to more than $70 million — $7 million a year for 10 seasons — and a 3 percent ownership in the team.
Pitino, who coached the New York Knicks from 1987-89, was also reportedly impressed with Celtics chairman Paul Gaston.
A source told the Globe that Gaston “promised he wouldn’t talk to another coach until Rick made up his mind, and Gaston has kept his word — he hasn’t talked to anybody else. And that impressed Rick greatly.”
The Globe didn’t identify their source.
C.M. Newton, Kentucky’s athletic director, on Sunday night said that he still expects to meet with Pitino on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I haven’t talked with Rick since Thursday,” Newton told the Globe. “There hasn’t been any reason to talk to him since then.”
Pitino’s contract at Kentucky runs through the 1999-2000 season. It pays him a base salary of $150,000, but the total package is worth more than $2 million a year and includes a $1 million bonus for staying until 2000.
M.L. Carr resigned as Boston’s coach last Wednesday after compiling a 48-116 record in two seasons.