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Rick Pitino will coach Puerto Rico National Team - Dec 21, 2010

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Rick Pitino will be in the Caribbean next summer, but he won't be relaxing in the sunshine. He'll be sweating in the gym with players he hopes to guide and goad to the 2012 Olympics.

The University of Louisville men's basketball coach will coach Puerto Rico's national team, in a decision announced Monday.

Puerto Rico isn't exactly familiar territory for Pitino, but he's used to taking over teams facing long odds.

I know their backs are against the wall to qualify for the Olympics, and that's probably what attracted me the most, he said. That's when competitive people rise to the occasion. The timing works out perfectly so as not to conflict with our responsibilities to U of L.

He's a (future) Hall of Famer and people like him, but I can tell you that in Puerto Rico they're calling him God' right now, said Art Alvarez, president and CEO of the Miami Tropics, an AAU team.

Pitino will coach Puerto Rico in the 10-team FIBA Americas Championship tournament in Argentina next Aug. 25-Sept. 8. The top two teams will make the London Olympics.

There's great talent on that team, Alvarez said. With the right coaching and the right style of play, he can get those guys to the promised land.

Pitino's early assessment of the Puerto Rican players: They're a lot similar to the way we play. They get up and down the floor quickly.

On Sunday he met in Miami with two Puerto Rico-born NBA guards: Carlos Arroyo of the Heat and J. J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks.

He kind of got their blessings the guys were excited about it, said Alvarez, who coached Barea in high school and AAU ball.

These guys, playing for the national team is the biggest thing in the country, Pitino said at the news conference. They are very, very passionate about it, and that was a major factor for me.

He wasn't so passionate about the idea when he first heard it from Ralph Willard, his director of basketball operations at U of L.

It started with Joel Katz, a Puerto Rico basketball official who has known Willard since the 1980s, when Katz played at Syracuse and Willard was an assistant coach there. Katz asked Willard to sound out Pitino on the idea.

Pitino initially wondered if he would have the time, but he eventually warmed to the idea and invited team officials to watch the Cardinals practice.

We told them how we would organize things, and it just went from there, he said.

Pitino will receive per diem expense money but no other compensation for coaching the team.

Coach is basically doing it for nothing, Alvarez said in a telephone interview. He's not charging anything. I think it's something in his career that he hasn't accomplished yet. He's been everywhere. He's been in the pro ranks, he's been in college, and I think it's something that he's always wanted to do. It's another challenge.

Pitino plans to bring the Puerto Rican team to Louisville next summer to practice against his U of L team. Then he will take both teams to the Bahamas for a round-robin tournament. (NCAA rules allow teams one foreign trip every four years.)

We're going to be able to play against the national team two, three times and play against NBA-type players, Pitino said. That's going to be great for our incoming freshmen.

Ramon Rivas, a former NBA player and three-time Olympian who's now a broadcaster, described the Puerto Rican team as so athletic and young.

He told ESPN there should be no language barrier between Pitino and the players: I guarantee you that everyone knows English. They all understand English.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski for the U.S. Olympic team, told ESPN that Puerto Rico's players should have no trouble adjusting to Pitino's game.

They've got a lot of good shooters and guys who can dribble, penetrate and kick, Boeheim said. It will be really good for his style.

One candidate for the team might be Ricardo Ledo of South Kent School in Connecticut. Many analysts rate him the top shooting guard in the Class of 2012, and U of L and Kentucky are among his pursuers.

Courtesy of   

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FINAL Venezuela - Argentina 76-71 Venezuela wrapped up their impressive Fiba Americas Championship rally with the victory over Argentina in the Final. Heissler Guillent (186-PG-86, agency: Enlace Deportivo) delivered 15 points to lead Venezuela to the historic first ever Fiba Americas title. Argentina posted a 20:13 lead after the opening frame. But Venezuela held their opponents to just 8 points in the second period and grabbed a 30:28 halftime lead. Argentina unloaded 24 points in...   [read more]

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FIBA Americas Standings
Group C
 1. Argentina 7-1 
 2. Canada 7-1 
 3. Mexico 7-1 
 4. P.Rico 4-4 
 5. Venezuela 4-4 
 6. Uruguay 2-6 
 7. Panama 2-6 
 8. Dominican R. 2-6 
Group Places 9-10
 1. Brazil 1-3 
 2. Cuba 0-4 
Stats Leaders
Points Per Game
  Avg: 21.1
 1. Scola, ARG21.1 
 2. Barea, PUR20.3 
 3. Rivero, CUB18.8 
 4. Ayon, MEX17.7 
 5. Nocioni, ARG16.7 
 6. Benite, BRA16.0 
 7. Wiggins, CAN15.1 
 8. Sosa, DOM15.1 
 9. Fitipaldo, URU13.8 
 10. Vieira, BRA13.8 
Rebounds Per Game
 Gustavo AYON
  Avg: 12.4
 1. Ayon, MEX12.4 
 2. Scola, ARG10.1 
 3. Nocioni, ARG9.0 
 4. Justiz, CUB8.3 
 5. Olynyk, CAN7.5 
 6. Haiti, CUB7.3 
 7. Calfani, URU6.9 
 8. Lloreda, PAN6.8 
 9. Garces, PAN6.6 
 10. Rivero, CUB6.5 
Assists Per Game
 Jose Juan BAREA
  Avg: 6.3
 1. Barea, PUR6.3 
 2. Campazzo, ARG5.9 
 3. Joseph, CAN5.7 
 4. Stoll, USA4.7 
 5. Laprovittola, ARG4.5 
 6. Vargas, VEN4.4 
 7. Fitipaldo, URU4.1 
 8. Gutierrez, MEX3.9 
 9. Freire Luz, ESP3.8 
 10. Feldeine, DOM3.8 
Steals Per Game
 Renaldo BALKMAN
  Avg: 1.6
 1. Balkman, USA1.6 
 2. Benite, BRA1.5 
 3. Vargas, VEN1.5 
 4. Barea, PUR1.5 
 5. Gutierrez, MEX1.4 
 6. Campazzo, ARG1.4 
 7. Vieira, BRA1.3 
 8. Ayon, MEX1.3 
 9. Valdez, CUB1.3 
 10. Lewis, USA1.3 
Blocks Per Game
 Augusto LIMA
  Avg: 1.3
 1. Lima, BRA1.3 
 2. Pomare, USA1.3 
 3. Rivero, CUB1.3 
 4. Ayon, MEX1.2 
 5. Balkman, USA1.1 
 6. Justiz, CUB1.0 
 7. Newsome, USA1.0 
 8. Olynyk, CAN0.9 
 9. Scola, ARG0.9 
 10. Nocioni, ARG0.8 
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