College Basketball Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino immediately took advantage of his return to the sport, leading Iona University to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at the program. Despite dealing with four Covid-19 pauses and earning just an 8-seed in their conference tournament, Pitino led the Gaels to four wins in five days and a trip to the Big Dance.
Due to Pitino’s legendary resume and his continual knack for winning, his name has already been involved in many rumors for potential power five coaching hires. Specifically at Indiana University, where head coach Archie Miller was recently fired after failing to reach the NCAA Tournament in his four-year tenure.
Rick Pitino shot down the rumors after Iona lost to 2-seed Alabama in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and reiterated his comments on Cameron Mills Radio Sunday that his heart is with the Gaels.
“I would say no,” he said. “You know what I think of Kentucky, I think it’s the best job in all of college basketball. If Coach Cal were to go to the pros today and they would call me, I would say ‘well, that’s the greatest honor in the world, but I’m very happy and I’m staying at Iona. And there are a number of reasons for that, and it’s not my age because I know I’m as passionate today as any day.”
Once the Hall of Famer was in Greece for a few years, only two mid majors called with interest in him as a head coach. Iona then came around, as the president and Athletic Director Matthew Glovaski flew all the way to Spain to portray a level of trust and confidence that Pitino was moved by.
“I said ‘look you can speak to any of my players who played for me at Kentucky, Louisville, Providence — I’ve never cheated. I’ve never given anything to anyone. I’m a man who believes in doing it the right way.’ And I said ‘let me tell you what happened at Louisville’ and all of a sudden he (Glovaski) interrupted me and said ‘Coach, I don’t wanna hear a word about Louisville. We wouldn’t have jumped on a plane, come 16 hours on a plane and 16 hours home, if we thought there was anything that you did wrong,'” Pitino said of the conversation.
With a clear level of comfort at Iona, Rick Pitino may very well spend the rest of his coaching career with the Gaels. And if his past performance is any indication, they could very well be a Cinderella to look out for in future NCAA Tournaments.