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St. John’s has to hire Rick Pitino. I know it, you know it, they know it and — most importantly — he knows it.

And he is clearly going to play a little hard to get.

From a chat with The Post’s Steve Serby: “I know [St. John’s president Rev. Brian Shanley] very well, he’s a superstar. I know him from Providence College, we’re both Friars at heart. The whole campus at Providence, he built all the facilities.

“But I haven’t been on St. John’s campus in probably 20 years. I know very little about St. John’s other than Looie Carnesecca. We’re gonna just get through this tournament. If I have interest and they have interest, I need to get to that campus and see it. Iona’s a place I’m very comfortable at, very happy at, so I’m not sure what my future holds.”

And then this:

And this:

And this:

You would obviously expect Pitino to maintain some discretion for now. Iona is in the Big Dance, after all, and its first-round matchup with UConn in Albany could be a classic. He’s not about to punt the way Kevin Willard did last year when he basically kept telling everyone he was leaving for Maryland and Shaheen Hollaway was going to Seton Hall.

But … there would be a way for Pitino to politely telegraph he was headed to Queens while also finishing things out at full strength with the Gaels. And he is not doing that.  Which means St. John’s still has some work to do. Salary, support staff, recruiting budget, more games at Madison Square Garden, academic standards — whatever Pitino wants, they have to say yes and make it happen.

The one thing St. John’s does have going for it: If Pitino wants one more shot at the big time while living in the tri-state area, this is probably now or never. He turns 71 next fall and Rutgers and Seton Hall aren’t opening anytime soon. If Pitino doesn’t take the Johnnies, he will have to leave the region for his last hurrah. And maybe he’s OK with that. But you figure he would prefer to do it here. And do it at St. John’s. So send a car over to New Rochelle, have a chase and get it done.

James Kratch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.