The 13-seeded Iona Gaels fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament over the weekend, but they’ll suffer and even bigger loss this off-season when head coach Rick Pitino leaves the school as expected.
Pitino is one of the most successful men’s college basketball coaches of all time, with more victories than Tom Izzo or John Wooden. His teams have appeared in seven Final Fours and have won two National Championships, and apparently, the 70-year old feels like he has plenty of left in the tank.
Rick Pitino Likely Leaving Iona, St. John’s A Possible Destination
He has been working his way back up through the ranks in order to find his desired job. “Pay for play” allegations back in 2017 ended his time with Louisville, where he had spent the previous 16 seasons at the helm. Pitino began his return by coaching overseas, leading EuroLeague team Panathinaikos from 2018-2020.
His most recent stop was at Iona. The Gaels qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice under Pitino’s lead, and finished with a 64-22 record over his three seasons at the helm. His .744 winning percentage is the exact same that he had during his time at Louisville.
But he may be moving on to greener pastures. Iona was always thought to be a stepping stone for Pitino to get back into the college game, and nab one of the higher profile jobs when they become available. After coaching in the SEC, Big East, and ACC for so many years, getting back there from the MAAC is important to him.
Sources: Iona's Rick Pitino will meet with St. John's administration in person later tonight.
The Red Storm have no secondary candidate.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 19, 2023
It looks like he’ll be getting his chance sooner rather than later.
It has been a rough couple of decades for the men’s basketball team at St. John’s University. Since 2002, the school has qualified for the Tournament just three times, never advancing past the first round even as a 6-seed and an 8-seed. No St. John’s coach has had an overall winning conference record since Mike Jarvis left in 2003.
There have been rumblings about both sides having interest in each other, and Pitino wouldn’t have to move any of his family, he’d just have to move across town. St. John’s is expected to offer $5 million per year to their new coach coaching candidate.
While St. John’s figure to be the favorites to land Pitino, there will be other schools in the mix, as well. Texas Tech figures to be interested, and there could be an opening at a school that the coach is familiar with. Should Ed Cooley leave for Georgetown, then there could be an opening at Providence, where Pitino spent three years in the late 1980s.
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