St. John’s basketball: Winning is no longer the hope, it’s the expectation

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

There are new expectations within the St. John’s basketball program and it’s not a secret. 

Consistently winning has seem to elude the St. John’s basketball program within the last three decades and that’s going to change.

It felt like winning was always the hope but not exactly the requirement within the school.

However, it was very evident at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday afternoon that the Red Storm will be a winning program very quickly as Rick Pitino was formally introduced as it head coach.

“St. John’s will be back, I guarantee that,” the 70-year old declared.

There was a new energy around those who have been in the program for the last several years. It felt like there was more of a focus, drive, and expectation that everyone wanted to make a good first impression around the Hall of Famer.

“Rick [Pitino] is a winner. We all know that,” St. Johns’s President Rev. Brian Shanley said.

Rev. Shanley was the leader in bringing Rick Pitino to Queens after the two formed a deep relationship during their time at Providence College.

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Pitino was genuine and spoke with knowledge, conviction, and honesty about the program and the rich basketball history around it, something that evaded his predecessors during their introductions to the New York media.

The program’s biggest icon, Lou Carnesecca, was sitting in the first row as Rick Pitino took his place on the podium.

“If you think I’m honored and humbled to be in Lou Carnesecca’s presence right how, you’re grossly underestimating how much I admire him,” Pitino said.

The 98-year old was thrilled that the school solely focused on Pitino to become its next head coach after he gave his endorsement to FOX 5 New York over the weekend that St. John’s needed to make the hire.

“I’m all in with everything that St. John’s stands for,” the two-time National Champion said.

“I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to get started.”

St. John’s basketball head coach already getting started

Rick Pitino has already landed his first player as the head coach of St. John’s after he was able to convince Joel Soriano to remain with the program.

Soriano previously said after the Johnnies were bounced from the Big East Tournament by Marquette in overtime that he would not use his final year of eligibility in Queens unless Mike Anderson was retained.

The two met on Monday night and Pitino announced on Tuesday that Soriano will be the captain of the Johnnies.

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Soriano was also named the captain last season under Anderson.

Pitino was noncommittal about the rest of the roster returning and still had to meet with a majority of the players, which will happen this week.

Sources confirmed that Rick Pitino and Steve Masiello, who will be joining the St. John’s coaching staff along with the rest of Pitino’s staff from Iona, will be at Archbishop Stepinac on Wednesday to visit with Class of 2024 five-star guard Boogie Fland.

“It’s not about when, or if…it’s going to happen at St. John’s, and it’s going to happen in a big way.”