As the coaching carousel spins and enticing major conference jobs pop open, Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino’s name is being bandied about with increasing frequency as scuttlebutt gets noisier and noisier about him considering a move from Iona — where he has been since 2020 — back to the big leagues of basketball.
Pitino, 70, told CBS Sports Matt Norlander in an exclusive interview recently that he wants to coach “five or six more years,” which would be more than enough time for him to find a new gig in his twilight years, work his magic and turn a program around. And with his name officially cleared from the FBI investigation that led to an acrimonious exit from Louisville, he figures to be a very hot candidate entering the offseason.
What program wouldn’t want to reboot around a Hall of Fame coach who has won two national titles and taken a record-setting three programs to the Final Four?
Pitino’s scandals notwithstanding — of which there are several! — the credentials of his coaching acumen are not in question. Even as one of the older coaches at the Division I level it’s clear he still has his fastball — he won the MAAC the last two seasons and won MAAC Coach of the Year in both seasons — so if he does indeed consider leaving Iona, the contenders for his services will not be in short supply.
So what are his options? Where could he go? And what, realistically, would fit him best at this juncture of his career?
It’s clear Pitino will be picky. He likes Winged Foot, close to where he lives, and he even admitted to Norlander that his living situation will be a factor. So with that in mind, here are his current options and the best fits for him now.
St. John’s sacked head coach Mike Anderson on Friday after four seasons leading the Red Storm, and Pitino has already emerged as the program’s “primary target” to succeed him, Norlander reports. St. John’s has a proud history with deep roots in the Big East, but it has not won an NCAA Tournament game in more than two decades and is in dire need of a revival. It’d be a full-on rebuild for Pitino, which theoretically would require an enticing offer — wads and wads of cash — to get him to abandon Iona for St. John’s and other possible suitors. But if familiarity is at all important, St. John’s should be in the mix, given he could basically not have to uproot his life — and could live where he does now — by taking this job.
Another program with a storied history in the Big East, Georgetown — like St. John’s — finds itself reeling after a failed six-year experiment with Patrick Ewing coaching the program. Ewing was canned Thursday after a 7-25 season — his second straight season of seven or fewer wins and third losing season in four years — which complicates the allure of this once-proud program. The Hoyas likely have ample resources to make a run at him and he could become revered forever among Georgetown faithful if he were to revive the program, though. Pitino
Pitino in February told Norlander there’s “20 or 30 states where I don’t want to live” and emphasized that where he lives now is important to him now unlike before. So it’s hard to imagine he’d pack up and leave the comfort of New Rochelle, New York, roughly a 10 minute drive from Winged Foot, to coach a middle-of-the-road Big 12 team in Lubbock, Texas. That said, Tech has invested resources heavily in its program in recent years thanks to the turnaround it had under Chris Beard and briefly under Mark Adams, who resigned Wednesday. This is a tough job, though, and banging heads against the likes of Bill Self, Scott Drew, Jerome Tang and Bob Huggins where he’d likely be out-manned in talent, out-resourced and a bottom-tier Big 12 team in his own state, this seems like the least likely option for him.
Could Providence be a longshot?
Providence coach Ed Cooley feels like a Friars lifer, but his name’s been brought up as a possible Georgetown candidate. So if that were to happen, which feels like a longshot but not an impossibility, it’d open up Providence — where Pitino coached in the 1980s — and offer him a shot to get into the Big East in a program that is much more stable at present than both St. John’s and Georgetown (by a very, very wide margin). There’s no indication Cooley is willing/interested in leaving, but if he did, it seems like the Friars and Pitino would at least give each other a wink and a nudge to gauge mutual interest, right?
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Publish Date:2023-03-11 08:22:23