Name: Rick Pitino
Current job: Head coach Panathinaikos (Greece)
Previous jobs: Head coach Louisville, Head Coach Boston Celtics (NBA), Head Coach Kentucky, Head Coach Providence, Head Coach NY Knicks (NBA), Head Coach Boston University, Assistant Coach Syracuse, Assistant Coach Hawai’i
Career head coaching record: 770-271 (304-155), excluding vacated games; officially 647–392 (355-155)
NCAA Tournament Appearances (record): 21 (54-19, 7 Final Fours, 2 NCAA Championships)
Evidence of recruiting skills: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Terry Rozier, Samardo Samuels, Wayne Blackshear, Brian Bowen, Antoine Walker, Billy Donovan, etc, etc — a long list of not just elite players, but role players who starred under him like Chane Behanan, Kyle Kuric, and Stephan Van Treese.
Items of interest: Among his successful assistant coaches are his son Richard Pitino, Marvin Menzies, Tubby Smith, Herb Sendek, Kevin Willard, Ralph Willard, Steve Masiello, Andy Enfield, Billy Donovan, Mick Cronin and Kevin Keatts.
Rick Pitino is currently coaching Greek team Panathinaikos, facing Real Madrid next week in the high-level Euroleague. Read the Ringer piece, you’ll enjoy it.
Dick Vitale vouches for him. Often. For what it’s worth.
Also, his text to Adam Zagoria includes a denial... and an ask for an apology from the FBI for besmirching his good name:
On court: Rick Pitino’s team have one extreme connection: they defend. From 2008-2007, a stretch of 10 years, the Louisville Cardinals dropped from the top-10 in adjusted defense once, which was the one time in those ten years the team was not a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament (except for the year they were on postseason probation).
The Cardinals forced turnovers, crashed the offensive glass and found enough offense to be dominant in the Big East, American Conference and ACC.
Why he’d be a good fit: Juice, as some of the fans have mentioned, is a factor. Hiring Pitino might make a whole bunch of donations from boosters (and horse fans) roll in to the basketball program.
More importantly, Rick Pitino has been amazing at finding players who fit his style — even less-heralded ones — getting those players to play dominant, oriented basketball. If St. John’s had him for three years, the team would be nationally relevant, in some manner.
St. John’s would be a strong hoops team in short order.
The Ringer’s piece on the zaniness of his current coaching life in Greece touches on how Pitino misses college basketball, and has some of his takes on the scandals that happened under his watch, including this quote:
“I hired the wrong assistants,” Pitino said. “But I had 30 of them that went on to become head coaches. I ran out of names and started taking other people’s suggestions. And I hired two or three bad assistants. That’s my fault.”
And even if Pitino — or his assistants, since it seems the issue is his hiring practices, not his directives — runs afoul of the FBI or NCAA, maybe he will have won so much that St. John’s fans will be tired of winning.
Why it wouldn’t work: There is the question of money. Brandon Tierney, who covers St. John’s on the radio for the school and tends to look on the bright side, thinks St. John’s should talk to Pitino and see if he can come for 70 cents on the dollar.
Rick Pitino’s compensation at Louisville, when last checked, was somewhere in the vicinity of $7.5 million/ year.
Pitino may want to come home and may want fame, but does St. John’s have $5 million per year? Is Madison Square Garden turn that kind of profit? What endorsements can fill in that money hole?
What’s getting in the way: So, there’s an elephant in this room, and it’s not Pitino’s age. It’s this list of scandals.
I think it was Chris in the comments who has mentioned the idea that given the scandal history, Rick Pitino would toe the line of the NCAA rules to get his good name back, to win, to compete in the NCAA.
Let’s get this straight. The NCAA has found violations around his programs from back in the 70s when he was with Hawai’i.
The most recent violation involved an Adidas agent giving money to a player who committed to Louisville, which led to his dismissal; the FBI felt that Pitino knew what he was dealing with when contacted by the Adidas representative about the player.
This violation came while on probation for that stripper incident, which came years after his lurid 15 seconds incident (some have said a Catholic university would not hire a coach known to have paid for an abortion as well, unsure about that). There’s the Chris Jones arrest as well.
The question is whether a Catholic School, whose administration seemed chastened by the violations under Mike Jarvis, is so into winning that they would invite the scrutiny of the college basketball nation on them.
St. John’s is, after all, a University. It’s not just the basketball program.
Hiring Rick Pitino is dressing up as the late-70s Raiders, asking to be looked at as the team that gives no damns and just wants to win. NCAA basketball is invested in having as close to a aw-shucks student-athlete image; it’s hard to imagine that the NCAA and FBI won’t be sniffing around constantly for violations.
Will the benefit of Pitino help the school itself? Or could it sully the name of the school?
If Pitino is implicated in some nefarious pay for play dealings again that he “doesn’t know about”, will the viewing public finally have to decide that either he promotes violations of the rules, or simply has no idea what’s going on in his program?
Maybe he would toe the line of the rules. Maybe he won’t be yelling “FAKE NEWS” in two years. But 30+ years of history says... maybe not.
Final word: This isn’t happening. (We could always be wrong, of course.)
But the people who are in power and would see a non-zero chance to lose their jobs in disgrace — the school President, the Athletic Director, the assistants who come on board who won’t get payouts — won’t enjoy the vacated wins as much as the fanbase would.