Rick Pitino Uncertain About Iona Future After UConn Loss amid St. John’s Rumors

Rick Pitino Uncertain About Iona Future After UConn Loss amid St. John’s Rumors

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMarch 17, 2023

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 17: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Iona Gaels reacts in the first half against the Connecticut Huskies during the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 17, 2023 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Iona men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino told reporters that he isn’t certain whether his time with the Gaels is over after they fell to UConn in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.

Matt Norlander @MattNorlander

Rick Pitino when asked if this was the final game he’ll coach at Iona: “I really don’t have an answer to it, to be honest with you.”

St. John’s and Texas Tech reportedly have interest in Pitino, per CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein

Source: Texas Tech has expressed serious interest in Rick Pitino over the last 36 hours to replace Mark Adams.

Iona plays tonight in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament.

This is March. https://t.co/ASgoPjpM6p

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported March 10 that St. John’s was set to look at Pitino as its top candidate to replace Mike Anderson, with whom the university parted ways after the regular season.

In recent days, Pitino has cast doubt that he will leave and noted he would only depart Iona for a “special place.”

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

Rick Pitino: “it’s going to take a special place for me to consider leaving.”

Matt Norlander @MattNorlander

Pitino on St. John’s: “You don’t buy houses without looking upstairs, looking at the kitchen.”

Pitino began his head coaching career as the interim boss at Hawai’i in 1976. He later guided Boston and Providence before spending eight years with Kentucky, winning the 1995-96 national championship. Following four years as the Boston Celtics head coach, Pitino took over at Louisville, winning another national title in 2012-13.

But his Cardinals tenure, from 2001-02 to 2016-17, included an NCAA investigation into allegations that assistant coach Andre McGee paid for strippers to perform at parties attended by players and recruits from 2010 to 2014, with one former player saying he had sex with one of the dancers and that this was paid for by McGee. Louisville removed itself from postseason contention in 2015-16 amid the investigation, and the governing body charged Pitino with failure to monitor. He was suspended for the first five ACC games of 2017-18, and the NCAA vacated the Cardinals’ 2012 Final Four appearance and 2013 national championship, among other penalties.

In 2017, the Cardinals were among a number of teams investigated for bribery. Pitino was fired for cause that year, but that was changed to a resignation after he filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Athletic Association.

The NCAA did not penalize Pitino, which he noted to reporters Friday (h/t Matt Norlander of CBS Sports).

“I was totally exonerated,” he said. “… For five years they put me in the outhouse because they [the NCAA] couldn’t get their stuff together. … I really have no idea what the future may bring.”

Pitino got another shot with Iona in 2020, and the Gaels have won two MAAC regular-season titles and two MAAC tournament titles and made two NCAA tournament appearances.

Pitino would have his work cut out for him at St. John’s, which has not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000 and plays in the tough Big East.

The same goes for Texas Tech, which just went 5-13 in Big 12 play and has an opening at head coach after Mark Adams resigned after he made racially insensitive remarks.

But the 70-year-old Pitino has proved his coaching prowess time and again and could turn the team around.

Whether he leaves for St. John’s remains to be seen, but for now, Pitino is the Iona coach.

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