Iona basketball coach Rick Pitino will meet with St. John’s administration in person Sunday night, per Jon Rothstein . Pitino is seen as the favorite to fill the Johnnies’ coaching vacancy . Rothstein went so far as to report that there are no secondary candidates in the St. John’s coaching search.
Pitino led the Gaels to an appearance in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the first round to UConn. Iona actually led by two points after the first 20 minutes before things fell apart in the second half.
After the game, Pitino — who is tied to multiple vacancies during this coaching carousel — was asked about his future.
“I really don’t have an answer to it, to be honest with you,” Pitino said . “I have no idea if it is or isn’t because I’ve focused everything on this game, trying to develop a plan to beat Connecticut. They just physically dominated us on the glass and in the low post. It really taught me a lesson of what you need to compete at this level, and we didn’t have the frontcourt that could compete at this level. So it taught me a lot about what Iona needs in the future.”
Iona finished the 2022-23 season with a 27-8 record. The Gaels secured an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament by beating Marist in the MAAC Tournament Championship game. Pitino is 64-22 in his three years at Iona. This season marked the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance with Pitino at the helm, as the Gaels made the field in 2021 before losing in the first round.
Pitino won two MAAC Tournament titles and two regular season championships.
“So it’s just the breaks of the game,” Pitino said when asked about Iona giving him a chance. “You can’t look back. The past, it’s always cherished. You learn from it, you cherish the past. I’ve been to seven Final Fours, two championships, and I cherish that. I also learn from the mistakes that were made. The present is where we’re at right now, and it’s disappointing for my guys because they’re a great group of kids.
“In the future, I have really no idea what the future may bring because I’ve got to look at the grand scheme of things about winning, and winning is very important because we all work so hard, every coach works so hard.”
Pitino said he was offered by a handful of schools after last season.
“I was offered three really good jobs last year,” Pitino said. “But I told the one job, it was a big-time job, I said, ‘Look, I’ve got a $5 million buyout. I had $10 million prior to that. I’m not worth that.’”
Pitino and Kentucky’s John Calipari are the only coaches to reach the Final Four at three different schools. Pitino had 123 wins vacated after the scandal at Louisville forced him out the door in 2017.
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St. John’s is searching for a new coach after deciding to part ways with Mike Anderson . The Johnnies finished 18-15 overall and 7-13 in Big East play.