Rick Pitino is moving across the Whitestone Bridge from New Rochelle to Queens. The 70 year old hall of famer intends to leave Iona University to take the head coaching job at St. John’s, as first reported by Fox Sports’ John Fanta.
Fanta reported the two sides will finalize the deal in the “coming days.”
Pitino spent three seasons with the Gaels. He went 64-20, won two MAAC Tournament titles, two regular-season crowns and made a pair of NCAA Tournaments.
“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona,” Pitino said when he was hired by Iona in March 2020.
This season, the Gaels won both MAAC championships and went 27-8. They won 14 straight games from late January through the conference tournament. Their season came to an end in an 87-63 loss to UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Pitino is one of three coaches to take five different schools to the NCAA Tournament (Boston University, Providence, Kentucky, Louisville and Iona). The others are Tubby Smith and Lon Kruger.
A New York native, Pitino has also been the head coach of both the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics in the NBA. His most recent stop before Iona was Panathinaikos in Greece.
He found his way to Greece after he was removed from the head coaching position at Louisville amid multiple scandals. Earlier this year, his name was absolved of any wrongdoing by an Independent Review Panel of the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.
Pitino negotiated his buyout from Iona down to $0 prior to this season.
St. John’s parted ways with head coach Mike Anderson last Friday. He went 68-56 in four years with the Red Storm. St. John’s was last in the NCAA Tournament back in 2019, when it participated in the First Four. It has just three appearances in the Big Dance in the last 21 years.
“Well, I know when he told me he was going to retire at 60 that he was full of crap,” recently retired Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told The Associated Press. “He’ll coach until he’s 80 if he can. He loves coaching. We all love it to some extent, but I think he loves it probably more than anybody else.”