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 in negotiations with Iona for a lifetime contract
By ADAM ZAGORIARick Pitino is in negotiations with Iona to sign a lifetime contract, sources told ZAGSBLOG.
The 69-year-old Naismith Hall of Famer is in the second year of a five-year deal after taking over at Iona in 2020. He has often said how much he enjoys coaching at the MAAC school in New Rochelle, N.Y. located less than 10 minutes from his home off the third hole at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck.
After winning his 800th career game on Sunday, he said he hoped to be at Iona for his 1,000th victory.
“I told the team that I’m glad that I got 800 here, but I said I want to get another 200 here,” he said after the Gaels beat Saint Peter’s, 85-77, to improve to 18-3, 10-0 in the MAAC. “And God willing I don’t roll a seven anytime soon, maybe it will happen.”
He added: “This is a great job, we can make this into something really, really special…Great place, I’m really happy, I hope I can get 1,000 here. God willing, I hope I can live long enough to see that.”
Pitino’s name routinely gets linked to job openings at larger schools, including now at Maryland, but he says he’s more than content at Iona and a lifetime contract would cement that.
After Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was linked to the Louisville opening, he signed an 8-year extension worth more than $50 million. Auburn AD Allen Greene said the extension means Pearl will coach the Tigers “for life.”
Pitino came to Iona with the baggage of multiple scandals occurring on his watch at Louisville, where he was ousted in 2017 amid an F.B.I. investigation in which two assistant coaches under Pitino were accused of funneling money from the school’s apparel sponsor, Adidas, to high school recruits. Pitino has long said that he did not know about the scheme, or another involving a staffer soliciting prostitutes and strippers for players and recruits.
After Pitino was fired, he spent two seasons coaching professionally in Greece, then was hired at Iona in 2020.
In his first season at Iona, he led the Gaels to the MAAC Tournament championship and the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament despite several COVID-19 pauses, including one that lasted 51 days. He also tested positive for the virus during the season.
Now in his second season, the Gaels are ranked No. 57 in the NET rankings and have victories over then-No. 10 Alabama, Harvard, Yale, Hofstra and Liberty. Their three losses are to Kansas, Belmont and Saint Louis. Iona is seeking to become the third MAAC team to go undefeated through the regular season; La Salle did it twice. The Gaels are in the mix for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they don’t win the conference tournament next month in Atlantic City.
Pitino ranks 12th among Division 1 coaches in wins — two behind Kentucky’s John Calipari — but would be third behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim were the 123 victories that he was forced by the NCAA to vacate from his time at Louisville intact.
He won NCAA championships at Kentucky (1996) and Louisville (2013) before the latter was vacated, and he’s one of only three coaches to lead five programs to the NCAA Tournament, including Iona.
“It’s a small school that you appreciate all the little things,” he said Sunday. “It doesn’t have the big things, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles that I had at Louisville and Kentucky, but none of that bothers me. I love the fact that I don’t have to go get on a plane and go play somebody. I love the bus trips. Forty-five minutes, it’s an hour, I think it’s great.”
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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.