Rick Pitino was introduced as the new St. John men’s basketball coach Tuesday, and the 70-year-old Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer was candid about his expectations.
Pitino was announced as the team’s next head coach just days after his Iona Gaels lost to the UConn Huskies in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
The Red Storm has not reached the tournament since the 2018-19 season, when they lost in the First Four. Under former head coach Mike Anderson, the team went 68-56 over four seasons.
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Pitino has been hired to make St. John’s a Big East contender.
While speaking at the podium about the show’s current lineup Tuesday, Pitino told the New York media directly.
«The one thing I want to be honest with is that a lot of the players probably won’t come back to this team because they probably don’t fit me well,» Pitino said, via SNY.
«It takes a certain type of basketball player to want to play for me. He’s got to be a total over-the-top, in love with the game of basketball.» [player]. If you’re not, it’s just a bad fit for me. it doesn’t work. So there will be a lot of players who will move on, I hope, to greener pastures.
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«It will be a round peg in a square hole. It won’t work.»
Pitino has a different style of play than his predecessor, one that is fast and requires constant movement on both ends of the court.
Pitino wanted to make sure he’s a coach the players like to play for, and he asked his former New York Knicks big man Charles Oakley about his workout Monday night.
«With me, I think my players love playing for me, including Mark Jackson, Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. I spoke to Oak last night. They loved playing with me for the Knicks,» he said.
However, there is one player that Pitino seemed excited to work with.
Joel Soriano, a 6-foot-11, 250-pound forward from Yonkers, will be a senior fifth-year next season, coming off an All-Big East season after dropping 15.2 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in 33 games for the Red Storm.
Pitino said that Soriano would be named captain for the upcoming season.
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Apart from that, it will depend on Pitino and his coaching staff to recruit quickly. Maybe he looks to his old Iona team, particularly second-year guard Walter Clayton Jr., who was the Gaels’ leading scorer this season with 16.8 points. It clearly worked fine on Pitino’s system.
And junior guard Daniss Jenkins and junior forward Nelly Junior Joseph stood out for Iona during the MAAC Tournament-winning season.
The Big East is a competitive conference, as March Madness demonstrates this year. Pitino knows all about the league, having coached Providence and Louisville in the past.
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In his three seasons with Iona, Pitino went 64-22, won the conference tournament twice and earned two trips to the NCAA Tournament. He was a two-time MAAC Coach of the Year.
In more than 35 seasons as a college basketball coach, Pitino owns an 834-293 record.