Rick Pitino will coach the Puerto Rico national team in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship.
Dec. 20, 2010
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino will coach the Puerto Rico national basketball team in preparation for a 2011 pre-Olympic qualifying tournament. The announcement was made today by Puerto Rican Basketball Federation president Carlos J. Beltran at a press conference in Miami.
Pitino will coach the national 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.
"I'm deeply honored to be coaching the Puerto Rico national team," said Pitino. "I know their backs are against the wall in needing to finish among the top two in a 10-team tournament to qualify for the Olympics, and that's probably what attracted me the most. That's when competitive people rise to the occasion. The more they talked about the pride and passion among their players and country, the more I became interested. I wanted the experience to benefit the University of Louisville as well. The timing works out perfectly so as not to conflict with our responsibilities at U of L."
Ten teams will participate in the FIBA Americas Championship including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Since the USA has already qualified for the 2012 Olympics by winning the 2010 FIBA World Championship, it could withdraw from the tournament and open a wildcard spot.
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, beating the United States on its way to a sixth-place finish. It did not qualify for the 2000 or 2008 Olympics.