Rick Pitino leaves Iona for St. John’s on 6-year deal

After a strong reclamation project with the Ioan Gaels men’s basketball program, Rick Pitino is heading back to a power conference program.

Pitino signed a six-year deal to become the head coach of the St. John’s University Red Storm program after leading the Gaels to a Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference title and an appearance in this year’s March Madness tournament.

pitinoThe 13th-seeded Iona Gaels lost to UConn, a four-seed, over the weekend after winning the MAAC tournament a week earlier.

A recent story from detailed the deal to bring on Pitino to lead the Red Storm program.

“… I’m not sad it ended. I’m so grateful it happened,” he tweeted, adding: “To my players, the last three years. All I can say is you know how much I love you.”

St. John’s courted Pitino, 70, fervently since firing coach Mike Anderson recently, and landed him with what’s being described as a lucrative financial package.

Pitino (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville) is one of two men’s coaches in NCAA tournament history to lead three different programs to the Final Four. (John Calipari has led UMass, Memphis and Kentucky to the Final Four, which includes his vacated appearances with UMass and Memphis.)

In a meeting with St. John’s officials Sunday, Pitino laid out his vision for the program, a source told ESPN. Pitino engaged with the officials about the school’s commitment, as sources said he would be taking the job with the intention of competing for Big East championships and the national title. That will require significant support both for the program and in the name, image and likeness space. The two sides talked about what’s needed for the program going forward.

Pitino will be St. John’s most decorated coach since Lou Carnesecca stepped down in 1992. Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach who has been to seven Final Fours.

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St. John’s has been to two Final Fours in its history and reached just three NCAA tournaments since 2002. Pitino has not only won two national titles but has coached in 23 NCAA tournaments.

Pitino is from New York, and he coached with the Knicks as an assistant under Hubie Brown and as the franchise’s head coach from 1987 to 1989. His return to the city will immediately kick-start the school’s relevance in the local sports scene, which has faded in recent years.

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