Where things stand in St. John’s pursuit of Rick Pitino.

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

The Iona Gaels had only been out of the NCAA Tournament for less than an hour when the first report dropped that the St. John’s men’s basketball program had planned to finalize a deal to bring Rick Pitino to Jamaica, Queens.

Pitino maintained that he hadn’t given his future any thought following the Gaels’ first-round loss to the UConn Huskies on Friday. But it’s been hard to deny that both parties have a mutual interest in the other, with the job giving Pitino a shot at leading a major college basketball program for the first time since his time at Louisville. 

“I really haven’t put any thought into it at all. I hear the question from you, and I think when you start thinking ahead, you always fail,” Pitino said. “We put a lot of effort into this game, and I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s right for me, another job. I don’t know that.”

The rumors have created plenty of buzz around St. John’s and even before Mike Anderson had been fired on March 10, talk surrounding Pitino potentially taking over the reins had loomed over the basketball program for a portion of the season. Pitino and the administration are expected to meet at some point in the coming days, according to the New York Post, with a resolution to come quickly. 

It had been reported as well that Pitino didn’t want to move from his Mamaroneck, N.Y. home, which could bode well for St. John’s. 

 The Johnnies will also have to show Pitino a clear commitment to winning if they’re hoping to garner his services, according to Newsday. A source told the Long Island periodical that “it’s going to be the commitment to winning more than anything else” that will sell the Hall-of-Fame coach on the job. 

Even more than the money, according to the report.

And St. John’s won’t have any shortage of that if Pitino comes aboard, with billionaire alum Mike Repole telling the Post over the weekend that he was ready to get involved. Repole is the Vitamin Water co-founder and owns last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal

Repole won’t be the only former alumni that will want to help the program grow if Pitino is hired as the head coach and it would dramatically shift St. John’s standing in the local college basketball scene. The program has fallen from the height that it once had and the Johnnies are still looking for their first NCAA Tournament win since 2000. 

And since that time they’ve made it to the tournament just once — a First Four appearance in 2019. 

The program has struggled, though the players inside the locker room supported Anderson. Joel Soriano said after St. John’s loss in the Big East Tournament that if Anderson wasn’t the coach, he wouldn’t return to St. John’s for his final year of eligibility. 

“If there’s any chance of me coming back next year and he’s not here, I’m not coming back here. He’s my coach,” he said.

However, that tone could drastically change if Pitino is there next year.