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Pitino Finding Dalis' Actions Hard to Understand

UCLA: Former Celtic coach also clarifies his intentions with Lavin.

January 12, 2001|SAM FARMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rick Pitino says he was more puzzled than annoyed by the actions of UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis, who disclosed this week that he has had two telephone conversations with Pitino in the past month.

"I'm not turned off by it, but I really don't understand it," Pitino said Thursday.

"I don't think this type of conversation belongs in the media. As far as I'm concerned, it was totally innocent."

On Wednesday, Pitino called Lavin to say as much, and to tell him he's not after the UCLA job. Pitino said the two cleared the air in a matter of minutes, then talked basketball strategies. He also said he was unfazed by Lavin referring to him as "an opportunist" after learning of the conversations with Dalis.

"Sometimes, if you don't know the facts, you react," said Pitino, 48, who resigned this week as coach of the Boston Celtics. "If I was in his shoes, and I was his age, I would have reacted the same way. I wasn't upset about what Steve said."

Lavin gave a similar description of their conversation.

"We had a half-hour, 45-minute talk. We actually talked a lot about the press," Lavin said.

Did he mean the media?

"No, the full-court press," Lavin said. "And the nature of coaching, the nature of this profession. How tough it is."

Pitino is considering an offer from Nevada Las Vegas and plans to visit the school in the next few days. He said his decision hinges on what type of NCAA sanctions the school might be facing. He said he told Lavin: "I might be a week away from taking UNLV."

Another option that interests Pitino is spending a year as a TV analyst, and he hopes to get work this year at the NCAA tournament. Although he praised UCLA's basketball program, he said he isn't even sure of the Bruins' record or who they have played.

"I was just trying to beat the Miami Heat the other day," he said. "The only program I follow a little bit is Kentucky. I've been watching seven hours of tape a day. Right now, all I want to do is get away from this. Relax, and get rejuvenated."

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