The rumor mill surrounding former Kentucky and Louisville coach Rick Pitino and St. John’s started churning a couple of weeks ago, ultimately coming to fruition with the 70-year-old Pitino leaving the Iona Gaels to join a St. John’s program that has struggled to make its way back to national relevance.
Under Pitino, I think they could do just that.
I’ll preface this by saying I thought Mike Anderson was going to work at St. John’s when he was hired there in 2019, so I could be wrong again.
But Pitino and St. John’s seems like a natural fit.
Pitino has a chance to revive a program that hasn’t seen much success since the 1990s while living in New York and in the age of NIL and the transfer portal, rebuilding a program is much easier than it was even five years ago.
It’s not hard to envision a scenario where Pitino has the Red Storm in contention for the Big East in a couple of years. It’s entirely possible he has them in the NCAA Tournament next year.
This seems like a situation where Pitino could thrive, making St. John’s a team worth paying attention to again while continuing his path to resurrecting his coaching career that looked dead in the water just a few years ago.
However, while the opportunity is there for Pitino, the pressure is now higher.
At Iona, Pitino didn’t face a lot of scrutiny. Pitino wasn’t expected to have the Gaels make the second round of the NCAA Tournament or win big games in Madison Square Garden. At St. John’s, the expectations change and with the reported 6-year, $20M contract the school signed him to, it’s clear they expect Pitino to turn things around.
Maybe, like the last several St. John’s hires, Pitino can’t turn the Red Storm around.
But maybe Pitino is the guy, and he shows the world why he is viewed as one of the best college basketball coaches in the country.
I think St. John’s made a solid hire by bringing in Pitino. Time will tell if the decision was the right one.