Rick Pitino blasts Greek fans for smoking, shooting flares during games: 'It's nonsense'

Basketball coach Rick Pitino on Wednesday slammed Greek fans for smoking and lighting flares during games, saying they are disrespecting the players.

Pitino, who is in his first season with Panathinaikos, a Greek basketball club, blasted the fans as “extremely self-centered and selfish of people” after his team defeated Peristeri in the Greek league semifinals.

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“I smoke cigars on a golf course but there’s nobody else around. But you’re in an arena and 10,000 are smoking and the players are choking,” Pitino said. “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 took over at Panathinaikos last December after he left Louisville. He had previously been supportive of the fan base, though he’s been frustrated by some of their behavior.

“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 said. “I think the fans should pay attention to the team’s players and try to get them to play better.”

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Panathinaikos and Peristeri faceoff again Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.