Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rick Pitino says he would bring St. John’s back to ‘elite level’
By ADAM ZAGORIAMINNEAPOLIS — Rick Pitino says he would bring St. John’s back to an “elite level” but would demand an apology from the Southern District of New York before returning to college coaching.
St. John’s is parting ways with Chris Mullin, and is believed to be targeting Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley to replace Mullin. New athletic director Mike Cragg came from Duke and is believed to be favoring someone with a Duke background. Hurley won back-to-back NCAA titles at Duke in the early 1990s. He earns about $2.4 million at Arizona State and his contract runs through 2022. One source said it could go “either way” with Hurley and St. John’s.
“I would bring St. John’s to the Elite level not seen since Louie [Carnesecca] roamed the sidelines,” Pitino said Tuesday by text from Greece where he’s coaching.
“But before that could ever happen, the Southern District of New York would have to apologize for ruining an innocent man’s reputation by putting his name in a complaint. So good luck to my hometown University because that’s not happening.”
Pitino, 66, is a Long Island native who owns property in Manhattan. He has led three NCAA programs to the Final Four and won NCAA titles at Kentucky and Louisville, although the latter was vacated.
He has been linked to the openings at UNLV and UCLA, and wants to get back into coaching but understands the NBA may be his best bet.
Pitino was fired at Louisville in the fall of 2017 after several scandals, including the Brian Bowen-Adidas pay-for-play scandal, and Strippergate, where former staffer Andre McGee brought prostitutes and strippers into the Billy Minardi Dorm to provide sexual acts to players and recruits.
“First and foremost, [former Louisville AD] Tom Jurich is one of the best ADs I’ve ever worked with and that includes the likes of Lou Lamoriello and CM Newton,” Pitino said. “Secondly, neither Tom nor I had anything to do with that sex scandal [that was] proven by the NCAA. As far as the Adidas situation, I had no knowledge of anything being done behind our backs.
“After the sex scandal our innocence was proven by the NCAA. That’s why I was only hit with five games for failing to monitor my assistant.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.