St. John’s hires Rick Pitino as head coach

Rick Pitino St. John's
Iona Gaels head coach Rick Pitino coach speaks with reporters.

St. John’s may have just made one of the men’s basketball program’s biggest hires. 

Rick Pitino has agreed to coach the St. John’s Red Storm for the next six years, which was first reported by ESPN. The hire is the biggest move yet by the program in its pursuit to return to national prominence. Pitino will be introduced during a news conference at MSG on Tuesday.

“One of my great coaching memories was having the distinct privilege of coaching against Lou Carnesecca and St John’s, a Hall of Fame coach and historic program that I have always respected,” Pitino said in a press release. “It is surreal to now have this opportunity to bring St John’s back to prominence. I’m honored, humbled and grateful to Fr. Shanley, Bill Janetschek and Mike Cragg for making me feel so special.”

Pitino informed the Iona Gaels, where he’s coached for the last three years, that he would be leaving during a Monday meeting. In his three years at Iona, the Gaels qualified for the NCAA tournament twice including this year. 

St. John’s has been courting Pitino to take over as head coach since they let go of Mike Anderson earlier this month following the team’s quick exit from the Big East Tournament. Anderson had been the coach for four years, but failed to make it to the NCAA Tournament once during that time. 

“We are thrilled to announce 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,” said St. John’s Director of Athletics Mike Cragg. “Coach Pitino is one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the game and has won at the highest levels everywhere he has coached. There is no doubt in my mind he will restore a championship-level program and culture for St. John’s Basketball.”

Pitino and St. John’s officials met on Sunday and they made him an offer, the New York Post reported Sunday night. Later reporting from ESPN said that during the meeting Pitino laid out his vision for the men’s basketball program and that he intended to compete for a Big East and national title.

Pitino brings a Hall-of-Fame record to Queens and is the only coach to lead three programs to the NCAA Final Four. He won national championships with Kentucky and Louisville. 

The Johnnies have been through five different coaches since 2002.