Reports: Rick Pitino leaving Iona to become head coach at St. John's

Rick Pitino is back in the big leagues.

According to multiple reports, the Hall of Fame coach has accepted the head-coaching job at St. John’s, agreeing to a six-year deal. Pitino, 70, spent the last three seasons at Iona in his return to college basketball following a tumultuous exit at Louisville in 2017. And now he is set to be a head coach in the Big East for the first time since his brief stint at Providence more than 30 years ago.

At St. John’s, Pitino replaces Mike Anderson, who was fired after four seasons. Anderson had a 68-56 overall record that included just a 30-46 mark in Big East play and no trips to the NCAA tournament.

St. John’s has been to the NCAA tournament just once in the past eight seasons and hasn’t won a game in the tournament since 2000. Pitino has brought five different schools to the NCAA tournament, including two trips in his three seasons at Iona. Pitino had a 64-22 record in three seasons with the Gaels and won both the MAAC regular season and tournament title this year and in 2021.

Pitino brought Boston University to the NCAA tournament and Providence to the Final Four early in his career and also was the head coach of the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, but he is most known for his time at Kentucky and Louisville.

At Kentucky, Pitino won the national championship in 1996, was the national runner-up in 1997 and also reached the Final Four and two Elite Eights. He won another national title in 2013, this time at Louisville, where he spent 16 seasons as head coach. In addition to the championship, Pitino brought Louisville to two Final Fours and three Elite Eights.

But Pitino's time at Louisville ended in scandal amid the federal investigation into college basketball as a player's family was paid $100,000 to attend UL. Pitino has long maintained his innocence and the NCAA eventually exonerated him in the case, saying there was "insufficient information to conclude that [Pitino] knew or should have known" that an Adidas employee "was going to pay $100,000 to the father" of the recruit in question.

That scandal jettisoned Pitino out of the college basketball world. He ended up coaching in Greece until he resurfaced at Iona in 2020. Now, following a successful three-year stint with the Gaels, he is back in charge of a high major program.

Following Iona's first-round NCAA tournament loss to UConn, Pitino was asked about the reports connecting him to the St. John's opening. He said he was too focused on preparing for the game before adding that he hadn't been on the SJU campus since 1987 when he was coaching at Providence opposite of Lou Carnesecca.

"I really haven't put any thought into it at all. I think when you start thinking ahead, you always fail, and we put a lot of effort into this game. I don't know if it's right for me, another job. I don't know that. I know you're all alluding to St. John's, but I've never seen St. John's. I don't remember too much about it to tell you the truth. You don't buy houses without looking at the garage, the upstairs and kitchen. You don't just buy a house, right?" Pitino said.

After a few days to think about it, Pitino evidently liked what he saw and is ready to take the reins for the Red Storm.