Forced out of college basketball due to scandals at Louisville, Rick Pitino is set to return with the Iona Gaels after Tim Cluess’ departure.
Iona College is set to hire Rick Pitino as its next men’s basketball head coach, according to a report from Jon Rothstein of CBS.
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’s arrival to New Rochelle marks a return to college basketball for the New York City native. He was served as the head coach of Louisville, but was ousted after numerous scandals. His unaltered tally of 770 wins would be good for 16th in Division I history.
Iona would be the sixth head coaching stop in a basketball career that began in 1974 as an assistant in Hawaii. He has since served as the head coach at Boston University (1978-83), Providence (1985-87), Kentucky (1989-97), and Louisville (2001-17). Among his ledger in that span include two national titles (1996, 2013), seven Final Four appearances (1987, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2012, 2013), and John Wooden Coach of the Year Award with the Friars in 1987.
Pitino, a New York City native who was raised in Bayville, also served as the head coach of the NBA’s New York Knicks for two seasons, the first starting in 1987. He had previously served as an assistant under Hubie Brown in a separate tenure (1983-85).
The Knicks went to the playoffs in each of Pitino’s years at the helm. In the latter season (1988-89), Pitino guided the squad to a 52-30 record and their first Atlantic Division title since 1971. The Knicks would sweep the Philadelphia 76ers in three games before falling to the Chicago Bulls in six. Pitino would depart to Kentucky shortly after.
Other professional endeavors include a head coaching position with the Boston Celtics (1997-2001) and Greek club Panathinaikos (2018-present).
However, controversy engulfed the latter stages of Pitino’s career. His lack of oversight of a 2015 scandal involving improper benefits and escort sex services involving recruits caused him to be suspended for five games at the start of the 2017-18 season. The Cardinals were also forced to vacate 123 wins, including their 2013 National Championship victory over Michigan.
Pitino joins an Iona squad that has established itself as one of the more dangerous mid-majors in college basketball. The Gaels are one of 13 teams to have appeared in each of the last four NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments and one of only two mid-majors in that tally (the other being West Coast Conference rep Gonzaga).
Iona recently bid farewell to Tim Cluess after a decade, as the Queens native stepped down after missing the entire 2019-20 season due to an undisclosed health issue.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags