Rick Pitino says St. John's basketball will play UConn at Carnesecca Arena next year

Rick Pitino did not hold anything back when talking about playing the UConn Huskies next season.

Dec 16, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino yells out
Dec 16, 2023; New York, New York, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino yells out / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
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Rick Pitino knows how to capture headlines and he didn't leave anything up to interpretation after the St. John's basketball team defeated Hofstra at UBS Arena on Saturady afternoon, 84-79.

"Right now, the only game we are going to play in Carnesecca [Arena] next year is Connecticut."

"Every other game we are going to negotiate."

And he was absolutely serious. "We're playing them in Carnesecca...It's definitely not a joke. 100 percent."

When asked why he wants to play UConn in Queens rather than Madison Square Garden, "I have my reasons" was the response from the Hall of Famer.

Pitino was questioned about the atmosphere and the lifeless crowd that flocked to Belmont Park, announced as 7,486 fans, and how it compares to other places the Johnnies have played this season like Madison Square Garden, Carnesecca Arena, and the Barclays Center.

"I could sit here and tell you about 100 things I'd like to change at St. John's," he said.

"Carnesecca is a big time home court advantage but the restrooms are terrible, there's no concessions, so it's difficult."

St. John's has announced, however, that all four of its games at its on-campus home have been sold out this season and the expectation is that Tuesday night (8:30 p.m. ET, FoxSports1) against Butler -- the final regular season game in the building this year -- will also be a sellout.

Its game in Brooklyn against Boston College, which was not a St. John's home game and not included in its season ticket package, was its worst attended game of the season.

Pitino said the crowd was "54 of his family and friends and 11 people from St. John's."

"We don't have an abundance of fans. We're not UConn or Villanova," Pitino continued. "There’s a reason we lost the brand. Looie’s [Carnesecca] been gone a long time."

"We have to build the brand back and the people will come back. We have to change the facilities, we have to change everything. It takes time."

Still, it would be jarring to see UConn in Carnesecca Arena, a building it hasn't played since January 2, 1990 when it was still called Alumni Hall, since its fans flock to Manhattan whenever the team travels south.

Huskies head coach Dan Hurley will certainly have a response to Rick Pitino's assertion and there will be a lot chatter about the pending trip to Queens for one of the premier programs in the Big East.

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