Rick Pitino has agreed to become St. John’s head coach, the school announced.
Pitino informed Iona that he was leaving the program at a team meeting Monday afternoon and agreed to the six-year contract with the Red Storm. according to ESPN. The 70-year-old coach had been courted by St. John’s following the recent firing of head coach Mike Anderson.
“One of my great memories as a coach was having the distinctive privilege of coaching against Lou Carnesecca and St John’s, a Hall of Fame coach and storied program that I have always respected,” Pitino said. “It is surreal to now have this opportunity to return St John’s to prominence. I feel honored, humble and grateful to the Father. Shanley, Bill Janetschek and Mike Cragg for making me feel so special.”
Pitino will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Pitino’s deal, which the school did not disclose, with the Big East school was confirmed in a series of tweets posted Monday.
“…I’m not sad that it’s over. I am very grateful that it happened,” Pitino tweeted.
He also added: “To my players, the last three years. All I can say is that you know how much I love you.”
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Pitino leaves Iona after the Gaels participated in two NCAA tournaments during his three-year tenure. He went 64-22 during his time on the show. He is the only coach to have led three schools to the Final Four (Louisville, Kentucky and Providence). Pitino has won two national championships, though his 2013 title with Louisville was vacated due to a sex scandal.
In 2017, Pitino was accused of failing to monitor the Cardinals’ program after being investigated for hiring shooting guards to perform for recruits. Pitino was fired in October 2017, and the NCAA vacated the 2013 title along with dozens of the school’s victories. The coach did not receive any NCAA sanctions following the investigation.
Pitino’s arrival at St. John’s seemed imminent.
The coach did not deny his interest in joining the Red Storm when asked about the job ahead of the Gaels’ March Madness first-round loss to UCONN last weekend. After the loss, Pitino spent the weekend meeting with St. John officials, according to the Athletic.
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The former Louisville coach joins a Red Storm program that failed to make the NCAA tournament in all four seasons during Anderson’s tenure. Anderson finished with a 68-56 record with the Red Storm and suffered a heartbreaking loss in his last game: a two-point loss in the Big East tournament against Marquette in the quarterfinals on March 9.
“After fully evaluating the men’s basketball program, our University has decided that a change in both leadership and direction is needed for St. John’s Basketball,” St. John’s athletic director Cragg said in a statement on that moment. “We wish Coach Mike Anderson and his family the best for their future.”
Anderson said he will file an arbitration claim against St. John’s after being fired “for cause.” Under his contract, Anderson would have been owed $11 million if he had not been fired for cause, and he believes he was wrongfully terminated, according to ESPN.
The Red Storm hopes Pitino can rebuild the program to regain the glory that has been lost after the departure of legendary coach Carnesecca in 1992. The school has had seven head coaches and just eight NCAA tournaments since Carnesecca’s retirement.
“We are thrilled to announce that Hall of Fame coach and New York native Rick Pitino will lead our men’s basketball program into the next chapter of its long and storied history,” Cragg said. “Coach Pitino is one of the greatest minds in the history of the game and he has won at the highest level everywhere he has coached. I have no doubt that he will restore a championship level program and culture to St. John’s Basketball.”
Pitino trained with the Knicks as an assistant to current ESPN analyst Hubie Brown. Pitino became the head coach of the Knicks from 1987 to 1989.
St. John’s hopes Pitino’s local roots will create an engaging and winning environment around the program, something the school has failed to do in recent years.