Pitino agrees to deal with St. John’s, sources say

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  • Joined ESPN in 2017

Iona coach Rick Pitino has agreed on a six-year deal to become the coach at St. John’s, returning to the Big East Conference with ambitions of restoring the Red Storm to national prominence, sources told ESPN on Monday.

Pitino informed his Gaels team in a meeting Monday afternoon that he was leaving the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference squad that he led to two NCAA tournament appearances in his three seasons on the job, sources said.

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 appeared to confirm the news, thanking the Iona administration and his players in a series of tweets Monday.

“… 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.”

Pitino is the only coach to lead three programs to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville), and won national titles with Kentucky and Louisville.

In a meeting with St. John’s officials on Sunday, Pitino laid out his vision for the program, a source told ESPN. Pitino engaged with St. John’s officials about the school’s commitment, as sources said he would be taking the job with the intention to compete 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 chatted 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.

St. John’s has been to two Final Fours in its history and reached just three NCAA tournaments since 2002. Pitino has won two national titles and coached in 23 NCAA tournaments.

Over that span since 2002, St. John’s has churned through Mike Jarvis, Norm Roberts, Steve Lavin, Chris Mullin and Anderson as head coaches.

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.

Pitino’s career and the St. John’s program appear to be intersecting at a time when they need each other. Louisville fired Pitino in October 2017 following an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, which eventually led to a job in Greece before he took the Iona job in 2020.

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