Rick Pitino 2021 Opinion. Only time will tell if is in it for the long haul at .
Rick Pitino Rick Pitino time tell the haul is Only for … will in it at long if Opinion:
Sat, 20 Mar 2021 14:00:00 -0700
Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino has 782 wins and two national titles, and has taken teams from three different schools to the Final Four
INDIANAPOLIS — The questions will come because he’s Rick Pitino.
A Hall of Fame coach with two national titles and a closet full of designer suits, he can’t possibly be serious about ending his career at a place like Iona.
Some big-name school – like, say, Indiana – will find itself in need of rescuing, and will throw a bunch of money and promises at Pitino.
And of course he’ll accept because when you have spent almost your entire career at the pinnacle of college basketball, the occasional turn in the spotlight at a mid-major just won’t do.
Unless maybe, just maybe, Pitino is sincere when he says he’s had enough.
That beneath those tailored suit coats he remains bruised from his ugly exit at Louisville, the scars unlikely ever to fade.
“I wanted no part of the so-called big-time anymore,” Pitino said Saturday after his latest project, the Gaels, gave second-seeded Alabama almost more than it could handle for 30 minutes before falling 68-55.
“I had enough of that.
I wanted to take a smaller school, like a Providence, like an Iona, a small school, and try to make it big.
But I wanted no part of any of that other.
I had enough of that.
It turned me off, to be quite honest with you, in a lot of different areas.
“I now don’t have to look over my shoulder to see who I’m going to trust, who I’m not going to trust,” he added, the aggrievance obvious in his voice.
Pitino was hardly blameless for the debacle at Louisville, which cost the Cardinals their 2013 national title and more than 100 wins.
While he insists he had no role in either the pay-for-play scandal or allegations that a basketball staffer paid escorts to have sex with players and recruits, he hired the people who were responsible for the misdeeds.
Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for a coach with Pitino’s résumé.
But after a year of penance, aka coaching in the Greek league, Iona came calling.
The hire made sense for the Gaels, who’d been successful but never wildly so, and needed to rebuild their program after longtime coach Tim Cluess stepped down because of health issues.
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And despite the big fish-small pond optics, it made sense for Pitino.
He’s from New York.
His career took off at another small, Catholic school.
He’d have a chance to build something again.
“I’m in heaven right now and where I need to be.
It’s what I call a ball, a boy and a dream, like I was when I was 12 years old.
It’s terrific to be here,” Pitino said.
“… I just want to coach, teach young people how to become better basketball players.
It’s no longer about me trying to move up any ladders, make more money.”
That doesn’t mean he’s no longer ambitious, however.
He dreams of building Iona into a powerhouse, a Gonzaga of the East, if you will.
The Gaels have yet to win a game in the NCAA men’s tournament – Saturday’s loss to Alabama dropped their record to 0-14 – but given what Pitino did in his first season, despite having 12 new players and going 51 days without a game because of COVID-19, it’d be foolish to bet against him.
He talked of the plans he has for freshman Nelly Joseph, who led the Gaels with six rebounds Saturday, and Osborn Shema.
He talked about bulking up Iona’s schedule and its profile, with games next year in Madison Square Garden against Seton Hall and BYU, as well as playing in a tournament that includes Alabama and Kansas.
He’d also like to play New Mexico – provided its new coach, his son Richard “is not too afraid of the mighty Gaels.”
“It’s definitely achievable with a coach like him,” leading scorer Isaiah Ross said.
“It just takes time.”
And there is that question again.
Will Pitino give Iona his time? Or will he decide after another season to chase the fame and fortune that is sure to be his for the taking?
“There’s some things that suck about being 68,” Pitino said.
“The great thing about it is being at Iona, being able to teach with nobody bothering you, just make the players better.
It’s a great place to be.”
Only time can prove him at his word.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
Rick Pitino Rick Pitino
Sat, 20 Mar 2021 14:00:00 -0700
Crimson Tide basketball rallied in the second half for a 68-55 victory to advance to the second round in Indianapolis
Herb Jones led Alabama with 20 points as the Crimson Tide basketball team pulled off a 68-55 victory in the 2021 NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Iona was the fifth program Rick Pitino had brought to the tournament after the Gaels (12-6) went 50 days without playing a game in midseason due to COVID-19 problems.
They won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament as a 9 seed.
Pitino had his worst seed ever as second-seeded Alabama (25-6) advanced to the second round.
Here's everything Iona had to say after the game:
Well, I'm proud of our guys.
We thought we could beat Alabama, to be honest with you.
We had to cut down the three, cut down their transition, keep them away from the basket, and then do a lot of positive things offensively.
With the game on the line, we gave up two threes.
Because they're used to running back in the lane, and against this basketball team you can't do that.
I'm real proud of our guys.
We have been offensively challenged all year because we're in our first year where we had to bring in 12 new players.
We're going to be better next year because we have more troops coming in offensively to help us.
But they gave me their heart the entire year, so I'm real proud of them.
Unfortunately we didn't have enough weapons to play against Alabama.
Q. I wanted to ask you, can you reflect on what this whole season, return has been like, especially being back here where you've had so much success?
RICK PITINO: Tonight we thought with every phase we could stay in the game.
The one area I'm surprised at was the rebounding.
They beat us 42-26.
Now, we did a great job defending them.
They had 13 second shots.
That was the key.
Take away the three, but don't give them a second shot.
We did, and that was our demise.
I'm real proud to be at Iona.
I think we can build something really special.
We're in the infancy stages of recruiting right now.
We're going to recruit bigger, better players.
But I couldn't be prouder of the guys that are here.
So we learned a lot.
We have a lot of difficulty scoring because it's the first year.
But I just wanted to focus on defense, and they did a good job with that.
And we'll get better, we'll get much better.
I'm proud of Asante and Isaiah moving on, hopefully for greener pastures for them.
They're two terrific guys that gave me a lot this year.
Q. Overall what did this team, in particular this year, mean to you? How good is this Alabama team moving forward?
RICK PITINO: Well, they're a very good team.
It all depends.
If you stop the three and you keep them in the 60s, low 70s, all their losses have come that way.
If they're good at the three, they're tough.
They're very good off the bounce, they have a great system.
They're very good defensively, as well.
They're very good.
I don't know who they're going to play or how far they can go.
I know we thought we could win tonight.
We didn't win.
We're very disappointed.
But we give all the credit to Alabama for a great victory.
Q. This season in particular, what did it mean to you to get back into the college game, get back here into the big dance for you personally?
RICK PITINO: Well, I tell you, the thing is never really about me.
I came back to Iona, I wanted no part of the so-called big-time any more.
I had enough of that.
I wanted to take a smaller school, like a Providence, like an Iona, small school, and try to make it big.
But I wanted no part of any of that other.
I had enough of that.
It turned me off, to be quite honest with you, in a lot of different areas.
I now don't have to look over my shoulder to see who I'm going to trust, who I'm not going to trust.
I'm in heaven right now and where I need to be.
It's what I call a ball, a boy and a dream, like I was when I was 12 years old.
It's terrific to be here.
We're going to be much better next year.
Our schedule is going to pick up so if we don't win the MAC, we may be good enough with our schedule to get an at-large bid if we're winning.
Got a lot of work ahead of us, but I'm real excited to be at Iona.
It's a terrific place with great values.
Q. When you look at just kind of what this team did with all the pauses, having almost a completely new team, new coaching staff, what is your overall feeling of this team and this season?
RICK PITINO: I think the toughest thing was missing — really missing two months of practice where we couldn't hone down on different defenses.
We never even really pressed unless we're trying to wear people down or we're down in the game.
You think about it.
Two months of the season missing practice, then each time coming out of shape.
That was our bad luck.
We still came out of pause five days before the conference tournament, played four games in five days, came away with a victory.
If we didn't give up two threes by the five man, this is anybody's game.
Probably haunt me for the summer.
We thought we could do it tonight, we didn't.
So you give all the credit to Alabama.
Q. Were you proud of how your guys handled everything this year?
RICK PITINO: I'm real proud of our guys.
Like I said, we were offensively challenged this year.
We have two young men, Nelly Joseph and Osborn Shema, who are just beginners, learning the game.
I think they're going to both be terrific basketball players.
We have some guys coming in from Australia, from other places that are really going to help us offensively.
So recruiting has been the key.
I got the alphabet man, all he does is recruit, so I'm positive about that.
Q. You mentioned that you were turned off by the big programs or the big spotlight.
Talk a little bit more about that.
What do you say —
RICK PITINO: I'm not turned off by the big programs.
I'm turned off about what happened to me.
I want no part of that any more.
I just want to just coach, teach young people how to become better basketball players.
It's no longer about me trying to move up any ladders, make more money.
I'm at a great place in my life.
I can coach six, seven more years, God willing, just try to make young men better, try to make the program reach heights it's never reached.
That's all I have planned.
It's a great place to be.
There's some things that suck about being 68.
The great thing about it is being at Iona, being able to teach with nobody bothering you, just make the players better.
It's a great place to be.
So I'm a very lucky man that our president, our athletic director flew over to Madrid, Spain, and offered me the job.
Q. You mentioned how it's tough to slow down a team that runs up and down like that.
What did you see especially in the first half game planning-wise that allowed you to keep it within reach?
RICK PITINO: We had everything in our favor except we kept the score down in the 30s, which every loss to them it what it's been.
We ran some good sets that got good shots for people.
We turned it over too much in the second half.
We got dominated on the glass.
That's probably the biggest surprise in the game, that we got dominated on the glass so much.
That was real surprising to me because they're not known for that.
They had 42 rebounds.
If you play great defense and you stop them, then turn around and give 13 second shots, you're shooting yourself in the foot.
Overall we'll work on the fundamentals.
But I think missing two months is a lot for these guys.
They never hung their heads.
They never complained.
They just fought through it, came back and made the NCAA, so I'm real proud of them.
Q. You've talked a lot about how you want to make Iona into a big-time program, the Gonzaga of the East Coast.
How do you look at this season in terms of that mission? Do you think this was a really good first step for making that happen?
RICK PITINO: I think it was a giant step in terms of building a defensive culture that was totally foreign to these players.
Look, the program was in shambles because they had one of the best coaches in the game, and unfortunately he got sick that year, and they played without their leader.
It was a lost year for the program.
Indicative of it, they had a losing year.
They were 13 and something.
Coming back with 12 new players, two seniors giving me everything they have, it's a good first step to building a culture, a winning culture, that can play against the Alabamas of the world and hold their own.
They did it for a period of time.
We were still not in the condition that we need to be to play like we did the Monmouth game where we go up and down.
With their weapons, we couldn't go up and down with this team.
We would have gotten blown out.
Q. How much fuel does this give you to win the conference next year and go further than the first round?
RICK PITINO: Well, that's the goal of ours.
I think lifetime, this place is 0-13, 0-14 now of getting out of the first round.
In defense, they've always had bad seeds.
But if you're good enough, if a Nelly Joseph goes on and becomes the player I think he can be, like a Montrezl Harrell, like a dominating basketball player, Osborn Shema can put on 25 pounds, we have our two studs up front.
I have a young man from Kentucky that's going to be a terrific basketball player.
Now we have to replace Gist and Ross.
We think we have their replacements on the way.
We got to get better at the three spot.
We think we have a very talented young man coming in.
We think we have four or five really talented men coming in.
I think it was more losing the two months of practice, if I had to pinpoint anything that really hurt us, it was the two months of practice.
Q. You started the season against a power conference team in Seton Hall, now it ends against another power program.
How do you feel you were more equipped today to handle that type of team?
RICK PITINO: Well, if you remember, we played Seton Hall a great half.
Sometimes when you sub, like we went with a walk-on today as a sub, he hardly played, and he did a fabulous job for us.
So next year we won't necessarily have to do that.
Next year we're going to play Seton Hall in the Garden, Brigham Young in the Garden, play in a tournament with Alabama, Kansas.
We hope to play the New Mexico Lobos, if my son is not too afraid of the mighty Gaels, we'll play him and improve the schedule.
I got a lot of respect for the MAC.
It's not easy.
These teams are really well-coached.
Every guy I'm impressed with.
So we can't take anything for granted.
We just got to improve the program, take the next step.
We will take the next step.
There's no doubt in my mind that Iona is going to be a force to be reckoned with down the road.
Q. You think the score could have been a little bit different, granted you only have five free throw attempts today?
RICK PITINO: Yeah, the referees were awful.
They just screwed us unmercifully (laughter).
No, the referees were great.
The referees were great.
I have absolutely no complaints.
All three refs were super.
18% of their points come from the foul line.
So I have no complaint at all about that.
No, I think we fouled too much all season.
That was problem number one.
Problem number two, because I'm running a lot of Euro league offenses where everybody handles the ball, they still haven't learned to go backdoor like the Euro league teams.
We had more turnovers.
Two things I wanted to get in: the passing motion Euro league offenses and our man-to-man defense.
We accomplished both.
So the referees were great.
Alabama was terrific.
Their coach is outstanding.
Everything about them is terrific.
But I'm real proud of my team, as well.
Q. How much of an impact did Coach Pitino make not only on your game this season but your everyday life this season as well?
ISAIAH ROSS: Man, a huge impact I would say, man.
He's a Hall of Famer.
I really wanted to learn from him.
As soon as he got the job, he texted me.
I told him, You're probably going to get annoyed of me because I'm trying to learn as much as I can in this year that I have with you.
Let's make it a great year.
Q. Everything that kind of happened from this year, from Iona hiring coach, the pauses, winning the MAC, pushing a Final Four contender for 30 minutes, do you look back on this year proud? How would you describe this season?
ISAIAH ROSS: Oh, man, I'm definitely proud.
It was an up-and-down season.
We had a lot of adversity.
We had a lot of pauses.
Guys didn't quit.
I didn't quit.
We kept our heads high.
Coach definitely believed in us from day one.
That's all you can ask for from a coach like that.
The guys stuck together.
We had a lot of camaraderie.
The adversity definitely didn't get us down.
It actually picked us up and made us go harder.
Q. Did you wear down there the last 10 minutes?
ISAIAH ROSS: I wouldn't say 'wear down'.
Alabama is a great team.
They just got the looks that they wanted and executed better than we did.
Q. I know it wasn't the result you wanted, but as someone who didn't get to play during Iona's last NCAA appearance, what did it mean for you to be out there? How was it?
ISAIAH ROSS: It was great.
I was on that team that got to the NCAA tournament, so it was a goal of mine to get back and help Iona get back there to March Madness.
Q. What did you feel kind of went wrong down the stretch that allowed Alabama to tip the scale into their favor?
ISAIAH ROSS: Nothing went wrong.
Like I said in the previous question, they executed better than we did.
They got the looks that they wanted.
We didn't get the looks that we wanted and execute as well as they did.
Q. Rick talked about he wants to make Iona like a Gonzaga of the east, a big-time program at a smaller school.
What is it about him that makes you think he can do that, that made you guys believe this season?
ISAIAH ROSS: His resume.
His resume speaks all for itself.
He definitely can do that.
He came here first year and we went to March Madness, won the MAC.
It's definitely achievable with a coach like him.
It just takes time.
Q. Coach said this game, he believed strongly that you guys could win.
I think a lot of people would say that's not the way it's supposed to go when you look at the seed lines.
What does it do when a man like him comes at you with that sort of confidence?
ISAIAH ROSS: It does a lot.
He had the guys ready, fired up.
We watched a lot of film going into this game.
We knew exactly what they wanted to do, their dos and don'ts for the game.
It was definitely achievable.
But as the game went along, their execution got better, ours got worse, stuff like that.
Just little things down the line.
They out-rebounded us, all that kind of stuff.
Q. What did coach tell you after the game?
ISAIAH ROSS: He told us he was proud of us.
We fought hard.
We did what we were supposed to do.
It's just the little things down the line that took away a W and made us lose.
Just the little things.
Q. In a few years, what do you think Iona is going to be like with him there?
ISAIAH ROSS: Iona is definitely going to be a powerhouse on the East Coast, I would say.
I believe it already is.
What is it, five straight MAC championships? Definitely a powerhouse.
With Iona bringing a coach like that in, it just boosts its character and stuff like that.
Q. You just mentioned that his resume is what kind of gets your attention when he walks in the door.
After several meetings, over time, it's got to be a little bit more than the resume.
Can you speak to just the manner in which he tells you things?
ISAIAH ROSS: Yeah.
His IQ is off the charts.
He sees things that other coaches wouldn't see.
That's why he's a Hall of Fame coach.
Just the way he goes about the game.
He has us stay in the gym.
He loves basketball.
So it trickles down the tree.
We all got to love it.
We all have to fight hard, give it everything we have because we see him do that.
Q. With all the film you watched this week, was any of that watching Hoosiers?
ISAIAH ROSS: No.
Q. How would you say you and the team have grown this year as basketball players?
ISAIAH ROSS: As the year goes along, you start to learn more, you start to gain more confidence, you start to build chemistry.
So we kind of started out rough.
At the end the season I believe we did a total 360, way better defensive team than we started, way better offensive team.
We know a lot of guys' spots and areas where they want the ball, where they can be effective at.
It was great.
We didn't start off too hot because we had a lot of newcomers on the team, only a couple returners.
We didn't have the summer.
COVID kind of didn't help with that.
I believe that we would be a way better team if we had the summer and if we didn't have as many shutdowns as we had because we got hit the hardest in the nation.
I think we gave it all we had.
I feel like it would be a different outcome if we had those months to prepare and get better as a basketball team.
Q. Rick likes to talk about how he coaches everybody the same.
He doesn't make a difference between scholarship and walk-ons.
What did you think of Parker today?
ISAIAH ROSS: Man, that was tremendous.
Parker is definitely a guy that comes in and gives you energy.
When he got in, he gave a lot of hustle plays.
He took a charge.
That kind of amped me up.
Do some dirty work down the line.
It definitely helps you out.
Q. Not sure if you can come up with this.
Was there a moment this season when coach said something that did something to you, Dang, that's not something I ever heard or thought of before, that kind of pinpointed that basketball IQ that he has?
ISAIAH ROSS: Every day.
Every day I learn something new.
He tells me something that I didn't know in the game of basketball.
You don't know what you don't know.
He goes out there and tries to teach you everything that he knows.
So it helps you.
Transcript courtesy of asapsports.com
Christopher Walsh has covered Crimson Tide football since 2004, and is the author of 26 books including Decade of Dominance, 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Nick Saban vs.
College Football, and Bama Dynasty: The Crimson Tide’s Road to College Football Immortality.
– March 21, 2021
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