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 calls St. John’s President ‘a superstar’ for what he did at Providence, reveals he’s spoken with Providence coach Ed Cooley
By ADAM ZAGORIAALBANY –– One day ahead of coaching Iona in the NCAA Tournament against UConn, Rick Pitino continued to drop bread crumbs about his potential future plans.
While he remains linked to the St. John’s coaching opening, Pitino called St. John’s President Rev. Brian J. Shanley “a superstar” for what he accomplished at Providence and also revealed he had a recent conversation with Providence coach Ed Cooley,who is Georgetown’s top target to replace the fired Patrick Ewing.
Pitino led Providence to the 1987 Final Four and recently returned to the campus for a celebration honoring several of the school’s former basketball teams. Shanley was the President of the school from 2005-20 before coming to St. John’s.
“I know Father Shanley, he once offered me the job when I was at Louisville, at Providence,” Pitino said. “He’s a Providence college graduate.
“Ed Cooley, who I spoke to the other day, said, “He’s a superstar’ and he is. I went to Providence’s reunion with Billy the Kid [Billy Donovan] and Pete Gillen and the three teams that went to an Elite Eight or better, and I didn’t recognize the campus and their practice facility was off the charts.
“That’s father Shanley, he did all that, he was the architect behind all of that. So I was just praising him as the Providence person, not as the St. John’s person.”
It would be fascinating to have been a fly on the wall for the Pitino-Cooley conversation since both are associated with Providence, both are linked to open Big East jobs and both are hot commodities at the moment. Pitino said Cooley called him for help on getting an assistant a job, and the focus of the conversation wasn’t Shanley or St. John’s.
There is also speculation that if Cooley were to take the Georgetown job, it would open things up for Pitino to return to Providence, one of the favorite stops of a coaching tenure that has also included stints at Kentucky and Louisville and with the Knicks and Celtics.
Asked if St. John’s could reach its previous heights and become an elite program regardless who coaches the team, Pitino referenced the importance of Name, Image and Likeness and changing the culture.
“Any program can be built but you have to change the culture, you have to change the players, because obviously you’re losing for a reason, but anyplace can be built,” he said.
“And the NIL is the reason. If you have these collectives, then you go out there and you get yourself free agents.”
Still, he said he has a “terrific” team coming back to Iona next year and his ability to win would play a key role in any decision he makes.
“I have a terrific team coming back with [Walter] Clayton, Daniss [Jenkins], Nelly [Junior Joseph], Osborn [Shema], four starters are returning,” he said. “I have two or three guys coming off the bench so that’s really important to me as well. I look at that as the No. 1 factor in my life so it’s going to take a special place for me to consider leaving.”
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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.