Rick Pitino had high praise for Panathinaikos after winning his EuroLeague head coaching debut 96-84 over CSKA Moscow on Friday, comparing the Greek club's atmosphere to Kentucky's Rupp Arena.
"It reminded me of Kentucky," Pitino told reporters postgame, according to ESPN. "Just like that, and that's the highest compliment I give any crowd. Because I've always felt that in Kentucky basketball is a religion, and the fans tonight motivated us to play that type of defense."
Pitino hasn't coached since being fired by Louisville in 2017 after an FBI investigation found evidence of payments to former recruit Brian Bowen's family.
Now, the Hall of Famer is attempting to overcome a slow start for Greece's top basketball club.
"I'm really impressed. It's an honor to coach this team," Pitino added. "I said to the owner of the team, he congratulated me, and I said, 'It's my honor and I thank you for having me.'"
Panathinaikos lost eight of their first 14 contests before signing Pitino for the remainder of the season. They're ranked 11th out of 16 EuroLeague teams and will need to reach the top eight to make the playoffs.
The controversial head coach inherited a talented squad that includes former Memphis Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes (who currently leads Europe with 8.1 assists per game), former Kansas standout Keith Langford, and Giannis Antetokounmpo's older brother, Thanasis.