The Associated Press
LEXINGTON - Rick Pitino said he'd decide today or Tuesday whether to accept an estimated $70 million offer to coach the Boston Celtics.
WBZ-TV, Boston's CBS affiliate, said Sunday night that the Kentucky coach had agreed to the deal and will be introduced as the Celtics' coach on Tuesday. But in a regular meeting with UK players Sunday night, Pitino didn't reveal his decision. He also was noncommital in an interview with the Boston Globe.
Pitino told the Globe the meeting was "very emotional on both sides, emotional for me and emotional for the kids."
Antoine Walker, a former Kentucky star who now plays for the Celtics, said that after speaking with Pitino on Sunday he got the impression the coach will take the Celtics' job.
''I got the feeling he's coming,'' said Walker, who was shooting baskets in the Kentucky gym when Pitino arrived for the meeting with his players.
A Lexington television station, WKYT, said the Celtics' offer to Pitino has been increased to more than $70 million - $7 million a year for 10 seasons and a 3 percent ownership in the team.
Previous reports estimated the offer at about $45 million.
Pitino, who played basketball at the University of Massachusetts and coached at Boston University, told the Globe that if he returned to Boston ''it would be for the challenge and not for the money.''
Pitino said his emotional connection with his Kentucky players has made the decision difficult. He said if the Celtics' offer ''had come up 10 years ago, it would have been a no-brainer. I'd have been gone to the Celtics in an instant.''
Kentucky forward Scott Padgett called his parents in Louisville after Sunday night's meeting.
''They don't know anything except coach (Pitino) is considering it,'' the player's father, Wilbur, told the (Lexington) Herald-Leader. ''The players don't think they'll know anything before Tuesday or Wednesday.''
Pitino, who coached the New York Knicks from 1987-89, was reportedly impressed with Celtics chairman Paul Gaston.
A source told the Globe that Gaston ''promised he wouldn't talk to another coach until Rick made up his mind and Gaston has kept his word - he hasn't talked to anybody else. And that impressed Rick greatly.''
Walker, who drove to Lexington after attending Saturday's Kentucky Derby, said he would love to play for Pitino again. Walker played on Kentucky's national championship team in 1996.
''It would be great having Coach Pitino as coach again,'' Walker said. ''It wouldn't be great just for me, but for everybody.''
C.M. Newton, Kentucky's athletic director, said Sunday night that he still expects to meet with Pitino on Tuesday or Wednesday.
''I haven't talked with Rick since Thursday,'' Newton told the Globe. ''There hasn't been any reason to talk to him since then.''
Pitino is scheduled to be in Atlanta today for a book signing.
Pitino's contract at Kentucky runs through the 1999-2000 season. It pays him a base salary of $150,000, but the total package is worth more than $2 million a year and includes a $1 million bonus for staying until 2000.
M.L. Carr resigned as Boston's coach last Wednesday after the worst season in franchise history. The Celtics finished 15-67 this season and compiled a 48-116 record in Carr's two seasons as coach.