It seems abundantly clear who the next St. John’s basketball head coach could be.
The St. John’s basketball program is at a serious crossroad in its trajectory.
The once iconic basketball institution has not made the semifinals of the Big East Tournament since 2000, the same year it last won an NCAA Tournament game, and have not been in the Round of 64 since 2015.
Its fanbase is constantly getting overrun by opponents in its home building of Madison Square Garden, in both the regular season and postseason, and there is very little buzz surrounding the program in its own city.
St. John’s fired head coach Mike Anderson on Friday afternoon after four seasons with the school and will be looking for its fifth coach since hiring Norm Roberts in 2004.
The only other current Big East school to have more coaches in that time span is Butler (6), but the Bulldogs have been to two National Championship games (2010, 2011) in that period.
However, it seems clear that the administration knows how to inject life back into the Johnnies and that’s hiring Rick Pitino.
Pitino, the current head coach at Iona, has taken three different programs to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) and carries with him the persona, moxie, and proven track record of a true New Yorker than can instantly elevate the status of ‘New York’s Team’.
Multiple reports have surfaced that the 70-year old and St. John’s have mutual interest, but Texas Tech is also reportedly gunning for the two-time National Champion after Mark Adams resigned following a suspension late in the season for making racially insensitive remarks towards one of his players.
It feels like the Red Storm have the inside track to land Pitino considering its proximity to his home near Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York and the lure of trying to resurrect one of college basketball’s iconic programs in one of the world’s biggest cities.
St. John’s basketball wary of baggage surrounding potential coach
Rick Pitino has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the NCAA stemming from his time at Louisville and while hiring the Hall of Famer could certainly come with baggage and scrutiny, the dark cloud of a tournament ban, recruiting sanctions, etc. is no longer looming.
Despite the potential backlash from only a few Red Storm supporters, the positives nearly completely outweigh the negatives.
St. John’s would be an instant talking point around the city and the image of the university, and its basketball program, would immediately rise on the national stage.
It’s very easy to envision nearly capacity crowds inside Madison Square Garden on a nightly basis and the program finally using its biggest recruiting weapon far more often, compared to just the four regular season games it played in the building this year.
An immediate, and substantial, influx of donations would come alongside the hiring of Pitino, which would only continue to rise based on the anticipated success of the team.
St. John’s would become a destination for marquee high school, and transfer portal, talent wanting to be coached by a legend in the sport and cash in on the extremely important — and valuable — Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) that dominates recruiting pitches.
If on the rare possibility that Rick Pitino doesn’t work in Queens, the St. John’s administration would know that it went down swinging for the fences instead of watching a juicy fastball cross the plate to end its year and watch its opponents bask in the glory while it sulks from the darkness of the dugout.
Its fanbase has been patient enough. It’s time to sink the tournament clinching putt on the 18th hole.