Rick Pitino says he 'doesn't like' coaching in a one-bid league and Iona would be 'great' in any league | Zagsblog
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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.
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Friday / June 21.
  • Rick Pitino says he ‘doesn’t like’ coaching in a one-bid league and Iona would be ‘great’ in any league

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    NEW YORK — Before becoming the head coach at Iona in 2020, Rick Pitino had spent most of his storied college coaching career in multi-bid power leagues at Louisville, Kentucky and Providence.

    Now he’s coaching in the one-bid MAAC and he doesn’t love it.

    “Look, I don’t like being in a one-bid league,” Pitino said following his team’s 72-57 win over St. Bonaventure Sunday in the Hall of Fame Invitational at Barclays Center that was fueled by Nelly Junior Joseph’s 24 points and 10 rebounds and Walter Clayton Jr.’s 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

    “I love Iona, I 10 times love the players, but I don’t like being in a one-bid league and we suffered from it last year, having a 25-win season [and failing to make the NCAA Tournament].” Shaheen Holloway and Saint Peter’s earned the MAAC’s automatic bid by winning the conference tournament and then turned that into a storybook run by becoming the first 15 seed ever to reach the Elite Eight.

    Pitino, 70, responded by trying to beef up Iona’s non-conference schedule. So far they have a home win over Saint Louis and neutral-court wins over Vermont and the Bonnies, with losses to Hofstra (road) and Santa Clara (neutral).

    They will face Princeton (8-2) on Tuesday at Kean University in New Jersey (7 p.m., SNY) before traveling to face Richard Pitino and unbeaten New Mexico (9-0) on Sunday. After that, the Gaels head to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic where they will open with SMU before facing Utah State or Seattle and then a third team.

    The Gaels are currently ranked No. 58 on KenPom, one spot ahead of Holloway’s Seton Hall team.

    “These guys could care less [when or where they play], they do exactly what it takes to win,” Pitino said.

    New Mexico enters Monday’s game at San Francisco (8-2) as one of just seven unbeaten teams in Division 1. If they win Monday night, the elder Pitino will attempt to hand his son his first loss of the season on Sunday.

    “Look, they’re going to have a sold-out Pit, the altitude’s tough, we’re traveling on our way to Hawaii,” Pitino said of New Mexico. “But to be perfectly honest, I’d rather die than lose.”

    He then pointed out that he’s beaten Richard twice, but, “If he should upset us, he’s going to get the biggest blow-by [handshake] he’s ever gotten in his life.”

    Pitino was also asked about his desire to move into the Atlantic 10 Conference — which now has 15 teams after adding Loyola Chicago — from the MAAC.

    “We’re very disappointed that the Big East didn’t take us. The Big East has been close to my heart, and I thought for sure they would take us,” he cracked.

    He added: “I think Iona, whether we stay in the MAAC or not, we bring a lot to the table [in men’s basketball]. It’s not because of me. Every single coach from Jim Valvano on has won and won big. So I think we’d be great for any league. We’re not overly pursuing it, but we’d be great for any league so we’ll see what happens.

    “That’s not my job. We have a tremendous AD [Matthew Glovaski] whose been told if he doesn’t get us in the Big East, he has to go elsewhere.”

    As I previously wrote over on Forbes, Pitino, who has led three programs to the Final Four and two to NCAA championships, figures to be targeted after this season by various high-major programs after he was essentially vindicated in the scandal that saw him get fired by Louisville in 2017. (The Louisville championship was vacated, but Pitino believes the banner should be restored.)

    Louisiville, which is off to an 0-9 start under first-year coach Kenny Payne, has fans Tweeting memes about Pitino potentially returning, but he has said he won’t go back even to visit until they make amends with his former boss, AD Tom Jurich.

    Fans of other programs around the nation have also Tweeted memes calling for Pitino to take over their programs.

    “I want to coach for a long time, as long as my health stays the same,” he said earlier this season. “I said I would love to finish my career at Iona but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. You just never know about the future. My intent is I love where I’m living, I love the school, I love my players even more than where I’m living and how much I love the school. You just never know.”

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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.

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