St. John’s basketball: Rival coach says Rick Pitino is best in country

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) /

Coaches still fear Rick Pitino as he begins his career with the St. John’s basketball program. 

Everyone knew that the St. John’s basketball program got its coaching hire right when it brought in Rick Pitino to fix the ship in Queens, but rival coaches are now praising the move.

On3‘s Jamie Shaw polled nearly a dozen high-major coaches, anonymously, and asked who is the best X-and-O coach in the country and a few had interesting responses.

One coach from the ACC said, “Rick Pitino is the best X’s and O’s coach I’ve gone up against.”

“Maybe the best job scouting and preparing for opponents that I’ve seen.”

Another coach from the ACC said that Pitino shares the honor with Kansas’ Bill Self.

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Pitino was named as the head coach of the Red Storm on March 20 after spending three seasons at Iona — his first college head coaching job since being at Louisville in 2017.

The Hall of Famer lead the Gaels to two MAAC Tournament Championships and two MAAC regular season titles during his tenure in New Rochelle while being named as the conference’s Coach of the Year twice.

St. John’s basketball ready to rise under legendary head coach

Rick Pitino has been to the Final Four seven times and won the National Championship twice — including the seasons that had been later vacated for violations — and had already won the Big East Championship three times during his time in the league with the Cardinals.

Under current NCAA records Pitino has currently won 711 games, but including the seasons (2011-15) in which wins were vacated he is sitting on 834 career victories.

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St. John’s has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000 — the same year it last won the Big East Tournament and the program has not even returned to the semifinals since.

Rick Pitino has completely revamped the Johnnies roster by bringing in 13 new players to the program and only retaining two — Joel Soriano and Drissa Traore — from the previous regime.

It’s still going to take a lot of work in the offseason but St. John’s is hopeful those ACC coaches are proven right and Pitino works his magic in Queens.

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