After spending two years away from the game of college basketball, Rick Pitino has reached an agreement to return to the NCAA. The former head coach of the Louisville Cardinals will be making his way over to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Pitino coached Louisville from 2001 to 2017, leading the program to a national championship and three Final Four appearances. He time with the team ended because of an off-court scandal involving the basketball team.
There weren’t any programs lining up to hire Pitino when he left Louisville, but that changed this offseason. Iona and Grand Canyon were both linked to the Hall of Fame coach. It didn’t take long for one of the two programs to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
According to college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, the Iona Gaels will hire Pitino as their next head coach. He’ll replace Tim Cluess, who announced on Friday that he would be stepping down due to health reasons.
BREAKING: Iona will hire Rick Pitino as its next head basketball coach, per Gaels' Athletic Director Matt Glovaski.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 14, 2020
Pitino shared his thoughts on his return to college basketball.
“I’m incredibly excited. I started my journey in basketball in Manhattan,” Pitino told Rothstein. “I’m now able to end my journey in New Rochelle. I’ve admired the stellar job that Tim Cluess has done. I’m going to try and carry that on and elevate it to prominence.”
Even though Pitino said earlier today that he wants to finish this year’s EuroLeague season with Panathinaikos, that is most likely in jeopardy because of this move. Besides, the basketball world is buzzing over his return to college hoops.
We’ll find out next season if Pitino can immediately lead the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament.