The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky — Rick Pitino isn't leaving Kentucky anytime soon. tried to give at a news conference yesterday after reports that he was headed for the Los Angeles Lakers.

It wasn't the first time Pitino was said to be leaving for another job.

"I'm going on my sixth year at Kentucky," he said. "You fail to realize this. Since my second year, you've been writing about this. Just take me at my word. The problem I have is there is no way to put a stop to this."

But he admitted that he had contact with the Lakers while on a golfing and speaking trip to Los Angeles last week.

"There has never been a negotiation of any sort with anybody. At all," Pitino said. "That's all I can tell you. It never got to that point. Up until that point I fully expected to be back.

"Contrary to what you may think, this is the premier basketball program in the country today at any level. I believe that. But on the other hand, it's a very difficult life. It's more difficult than any of you can imagine."

In the past three years, in addition to the Lakers, he has been linked to coaching jobs with the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets and Indiana Pacers.

Pitino said the news reports may eventually drive him from Kentucky.

"If I think my actions or my inability to convince people that I'm staying is not there, I'm going to leave," he said.