Rick Pitino, the coach of Greek team Panathinaikos, criticized fans earlier this week for smoking and lighting flares during games, according to the Associated Press.
The coach says such behavior is disrespectful to players, who would simply like to play basketball without having to worry about bizarre occurrences such as being hit by a live flare.
“It’s extremely self-centered and selfish of people,” Pitino said late on Wednesday, according to the AP, after his team won a Greek League playoff game. He described the atmosphere at the game as “awful.”
“I smoke cigars on a golf course, but there’s nobody else around. But you’re in an arena and 10,000 people are smoking and the players are choking. So, sooner or later, you’ve got to say: ‘Hey man, we’re at an athletic event and I’m going to discipline myself and we’ll wait until halftime. And I’m going to go out and blow my brains out with cigarettes.’ That’s your option. But not when there are athletes and there are little kids who want to come to the game. … But they don’t care about young people and the athletes who are breathing it in.”
Pitino has praised Greek fans at times since taking over at Panathinaikos in December, comparing the fans’ passion to those at Louisville and Kentucky. But violence and other disrespectful behavior at some Greek games has caused him to reach a breaking point.
“I think all this stuff with shooting flares — somebody is going to get burned and somebody is going to get hurt — to me, I think it’s nonsense,” Pitino reportedly said. “I think the fans should pay attention to the team’s players and try to get them to play better.”