Rick Pitino returning to college basketball as Iona’s new head coach

Rick Pitino is making his return to college basketball. Reports Saturday indicate that Pitino, who has been coaching in the Greek pros since last year, will be the new head coach at Iona.

It’s been about two and a half years since Louisville placed Pitino on an administrative leave that would later turn into a firing with cause. Numerous scandals within the program cost Louisville the 2013 NCAA Championship, but the final blow was the school’s involvement in the Adidas/FBI investigation that rocked the college basketball world in 2017.

This will be the seventh Division I head coaching job for Pitino, who started out at Hawaii in the mid-70s but is most well-known for his tenures at Kentucky and Louisville. His official records as of now are 647 wins, 10 conference titles, 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, 5 Final Fours and 1 National Championship (with UK in 1996).

Raised on Long Island, Pitino will coach a team in home state for the first time since he left the New York Knicks in May 1989. This is also the first mid-major job for Pitino since he coached Boston University from 1978-83.

Former Iona head coach Tim Cluess stepped down this week to focus on his health and take a different role at the school. The Gaels were coached by Tra Arnold this past season in Cluess’ absence, going 12-16 (9-11). Before that, he led the team to four-straight NCAA Tournaments and won a total of four MAAC titles in nine seasons at the helm.

On paper, this seems like a great fit for both parties: Iona gets a Hall of Fame coach with local ties and about all the buzz you could hope for when making a hire, while Pitino gets to return to the college game, coach in his hometown and not have all the pressure that a major conference program might have. If things work out, Pitino could have Iona back to running the MAAC table in no time.


credit to Dylan Buell/Getty for the photo