Coach denies story, takes 'day off'
Miami Rick Pitino needed a day off after the latest loss by the Boston Celtics. His hiatus might not end after 24 hours.
Pitino, frustrated by his team's lackluster play, decided to leave the Celtics for at least one day after they lost their fifth straight game, 112-86, to the Miami Heat on Saturday night.
While the Celtics planned to fly home Saturday night, Pitino said he would stay in Miami with his wife to do some "soul searching."
"No, I have not resigned, but I am going to take a day off (Sunday)," Pitino said. "It has been a while since I remember having a day off. My wife is coming down and we are going to spend the day together and I'm going to do a little thinking."
The Providence Journal-Bulletin, citing an unidentified source close to Pitino, reported that the coach had reached a settlement deal with the team and would announce his resignation Monday. Assistant Jim O'Brien would take over the team, the paper said.
The Celtics did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
"It's safe to say that I will have a decision after the day off," Pitino said.
Pitino is the second coach to take a leave of absence from his team this season. Philadelphia coach Larry Brown left the team last month for two days before returning.
Pitino has said since late last season, his third consecutive losing season, that 2000-01 would be his last in Boston if he doesn't see improvement.
The Celtics have lost 11 of their last 14 and have allowed 100 or more points in nine of those games, with eight of them defeats. Pitino is 102-146 in 3 1/2 seasons in Boston.
"What I'm looking for is defensive improvement, but you can see by the way they scored tonight that it's not there," Pitino said. "The effort is there, but the defensive improvement isn't."
Earlier this week, Pitino revealed that he put his Boston townhouse up for sale, although he said his decision to sell had nothing to do with the Celtics. He said his family didn't need as big a house with his son, Richard, leaving for college next year.
Heat coach Pat Riley said he hopes Pitino sticks around.
"If he decides to leave, there is not a coach in the NBA who cares more and puts more into the game than he does," Riley said. "He developed a first-class organization up there. The players get everything they want and need.
"If, in fact, it does happen, I think it is a shame because he is a credit to the game."
Tim Hardaway had 24 points and 10 assists as the Heat had their biggest offensive output of the season.
The Heat, who have won six straight home games and seven of eight overall, have topped 100 points five times in 35 games.
Antoine Walker scored 26 points and Paul Pierce added 20 for the Celtics, who have lost 11 of their last 14.
"I don't know what his decision is going to be. All I know is that I feel that I didn't fight for him tonight," Pierce said.
Sixers 107, Cavaliers 103
Cleveland Allen Iverson scored a career and NBA season-high 54 points and Philadelphia won its eighth straight road win. Iverson, coming off a 41-point performance against Seattle, broke his own Gund Arena record of 50 points as the Sixers improved the NBA's best road mark to 15-4.
Washington Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points, including 12 straight at one point for Dallas. Nowitzki, Dallas' leading scorer, couldn't get a shot or a point in the first 14 minutes. But he scored 14 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half, including Dallas' last five of the quarter, and the Mavericks' first seven points of the third.
Hawks 83, Magic 82
Atlanta Lorenzen Wright scored 22 points and Dikembe Mutombo pulled down 24 rebounds as Atlanta ended a five-game losing streak to Orlando.
Nets 97, Warriors 92
East Rutherford, N.J. Keith Van Horn scored 19 points in his first game since breaking his left leg in October.
Jazz 99, Rockets 97
Houston Donyell Marshall scored 20 points and Utah used a big second-half run to end a five-game skid. Byron Russell scored 17 points for the Jazz, John Stockton added 16 and Karl Malone had 14.
Spurs 108, Pistons 101
San Antonio David Robinson had 29 points and 22 rebounds, both season highs, as San Antonio beat Detroit.