HomeSportsAt 70, With Checkered Past, Pitino Is A Hot Commodity Again

At 70, With Checkered Past, Pitino Is A Hot Commodity Again

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – It’s a March Madness tradition heralded as a 12-5 upset.

A successful coach at a small school enters the NCAA tournament with speculation of being a candidate at a more glamorous school, forcing the coach to dodge questions about his future ahead of the most important games of the season. .

Twist this year? That coach is a 70-year-old, two-time national champion whose Hall of Fame four-decade career was riddled with scandal.

Iona coach Rick Pitino said, “You’re not hired by the Internet.” “My players, it’s not distracting to them at all. I’ve always taken it as a compliment that if someone else is interested in you, I’m very grateful for that, but I’ve never taken it for granted.” .

Pitino heads into the tournament as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions for the second time in his three seasons at the private Catholic school in New Rochelle, New York, north of the city.

Iona, a 13 seed, faces fourth-seeded Connecticut from the Big East in the West Region first round on Thursday. As much as Pitino tries to focus on Gail, it looks like his time at the school is up and he’s about to land another high-profile gig – St. John’s? Georgetown? Texas Tech? – before he ends it.

Or rather, if he lets it go.

“Okay, I know he was full of crap when he told me he was going to retire at 60,” recently retired Syracuse coach Jim Boehm told The Associated Press. “If he can, he will be coaching till the age of 80. He likes coaching. We all love it to some degree, but I think he probably loves it more than anyone else.”

In 34 full seasons as a college head coach, he has led each of the five schools he coached to the NCAA tournament, won national championships at Kentucky and Louisville, and has a winning percentage of .741.

He had two stints in the NBA, one with the New York Knicks, and the other with the Boston Celtics, which did not make a playoff appearance. But in college, Pitino has had just one losing season.

Boehm, who hired Pitino as an assistant at Syracuse in 1976, called him “probably the best basketball coach I’ve ever seen or gone up against.”

Pitino is back in the game for big schools after Louisville was acquitted of NCAA recruiting violations committed under his watch and exposed by the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.

A few days before the start of this season, the NCAA’s external branch of enforcement, the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, announced that it found no violations by “(Pitino) as he demonstrated that he fostered an environment of compliance.”

Iona and Pitino celebrate the reign, but it’s not the only blemish on their resumes.

Pitino wins 2013 NCAA Championships in Louisville was later released After an investigation an assistant coach paid escorts and foreign dancers to entertain players and recruits in campus dorms.

Personal impropriety was also revealed during a criminal case against a woman. Pitino found guilty of extortion,

Before Pitino could serve his five-game suspension for the earlier NCAA case, he was Fired by Louisville in 2017 when his program was implicated in an FBI case.

“He had some things, yes,” Boehm said. “It’s not a lot when you look over 40 years.”

New Mexico coach Richard Pitino, Rick’s son and former assistant, said that as the leader of a program, his father was accountable for the actions of those who worked for him.

“He was held accountable. If people are still upset about it, I would just tell them that they need to move on. Because it’s not like he didn’t do much,” Richard Pitino told the AP. “You know he was fired. He ended up being out of this country for two years to coach. Then he goes and takes Iona, who he was lucky to have.

After a season out of coaching and two coaching stints in Greece, Iona took a calculated risk in hiring Pitino when his reputation was tarnished by allegations related to an FBI investigation into him not being punished.

While Iona was proven correct, it also quickly became apparent that it would be difficult for the school to keep its coach.

“We know he can go,” Iona president Seamus Carey told The New York Post earlier this week.

Pitino said he hoped he could coach for another 12 years.

“But I’ll take six or seven,” he said.

Dressed in a giant all-white sweat suit, Pitino looked lithe as he coached his team during practice at MVP Arena on Thursday.

There was never any doubt who was in charge as he called out directions at midcourt, and then twice jumped into the lane to play defense against players headed for the basket.

“He loves basketball so much, he even says at practice: ‘I would die for basketball. I’d rather die on a basketball court,'” Iona guard Beric Jean-Louis said with a smile. “He talks crazily about it.”

Last year, Gail was shut out of the NCAA tournament after finishing first in the MAAC during the regular season. They were upset in the conference tournament and MAAC champion St. Peter’s made a magical run in March Madness as a 15 Seed,

Pitino said, “I felt more pressure on Iona than any other time, Kentucky, Louisville, Knicks, Celtics.” “I feel so much pressure with these three (conference tournament) games that you have to win to get into the (NCAA) tournament.”

Richard Pitino said he doesn’t know what his father’s next move will be, but he is aware of Rick’s frustration at a traditionally one-bid NCAA conference.

“That’s part of it I think that’s definitely the reason why maybe he would be open to something else,” Richard Pitino said.

The St. John’s or Georgetown jobs would bring Rick Pitino back to the Big East, where he led Providence to one of the most memorable Final Four runs in tournament history in 1987 and where he won the national title with Louisville.

“Whoever hired him, they would be successful within two years. At most,” Boehm said. “It’s like a guarantee.”

Right now there is Providence Link between Pitino and St. John’s.

St. John’s President Rev. Brian Shanley was previously at the Rhode Island school, where he contributed to the revival of the basketball program which included investment in facilities and the hiring of coach Ed Cooley.

Pitino said that Shanley tried to lure him back to Providence when he was in Louisville.

Pitino said, “I talked to Ed Cooley the other day, (Shanley’s) superstar.”

Pitino talked about how good he has it at Iona, where he has a president and athletic director who provide all the help he needs and is expected to make four starts next season.

Is He Ready For Another Rebuild?

“It’s going to take a special place,” he said, “for me to consider leaving.”


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