St. John’s basketball hires Hall of Famer Rick Pitino as head coach

St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports) /

The St. John’s basketball program has hired Rick Pitino as its next head coach. 

The speculation can finally be put to rest because Rick Pitino will serve as the next head coach of the St. John’s basketball program.

Pitino, 70, is coming off of a MAAC Championship and NCAA Tournament berth with the Iona Gaels before falling in the Round of 64 to the UConn Huskies in the NCAA Tournament, despite leading at halftime.

St. John’s fired Mike Anderson after four seasons with the program on March 10, one day after its season ended.

The two sides formally met on Sunday, according to sources, to discuss the parameters of a deal which would bring the Hall of Famer from New Rochelle to Queens and try to jumpstart the historic Red Storm program.

“One of my great coaching memories was having the distinct privilege of coaching against Lou Carnesecca and St. John’s, a Hall of Fame coach and historic program that I have always respected,” Rick Pitino said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Mike Anderson filing lawsuit after being fired

Pitino toured the campus and surveyed facilities during the meeting before agreeing to a six-year deal on Monday.

“It is surreal to now have this opportunity to bring St. John’s back to prominence. I’m honored, humbled and grateful to Fr. Shanley, Bill Janetschek and Mike Cragg for making me feel so special.”

St. John’s, led by President Rev. Brian Shanley, was fully committed to Pitino once the school officially parted ways with Anderson and did not meet with any other coaching candidates in its pursuit of the biggest prize in this year’s coaching carousel.

St. John’s basketball fully committed to pursuit of Rick Pitino

Rev. Shanley, the former Providence College president, and Pitino have a long history together dating back to when Shanley nearly hired Pitino at Providence in 2011 before eventually hiring Ed Cooley.

“I am excited that [Rick Pitino] seasoned coaching veteran—who has won at the highest levels and is as passionate as ever— is committed to leading our student-athletes and our program to national prominence,” Rev. Shanley stated.

Cooley was hired by Georgetown earlier on Monday afternoon.

ALSO READ: St. John’s cannot complete comeback against North Carolina

Pitino called Shanley a “superstar” this week when asked about his future and his thoughts on the vacant coaching position at St. John’s.

“Coach Pitino is one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the game and has won at the highest levels everywhere he has coached,” St. John’s Director of Athletics Mike Cragg said.

“There is no doubt in my mind he will restore a championship-level program and culture for St. John’s Basketball.”

Rick Pitino has taken three different programs (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four in his career and while the Johnnies certainly cannot dream that big yet, it appears as if the presence alone of Pitino will elevate the program to heights it has not reached since Lou Carnesecca roamed the sidelines.

The school will officially introduce him on Tuesday at 12:00p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.

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