St. John's basketball: Rick Pitino 'accepts' Mark Pope's invitation play Kentucky

The Hall of Famer could be returning to Kentucky very soon
DePaul v St. John's; St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino
DePaul v St. John's; St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino / Porter Binks/GettyImages

Rick Pitino cannot get Kentucky off his mind and the St. John's basketball coach might be seeing more of the Wildcats very soon.

Pitino's captain from the 1996 National Championship team in Lexington, Mark Pope, was named as the head coach of the program following the departure of John Calipari and the Hall of Famer has given his full support behind one of his own.

He posted a video lasting over two minutes detailing how much Kentucky means to Pope and how he will do an amazing job stepping up in competition from BYU to one of the sport's biggest brands.

Pope responded to Pitino during his introductory press conference, telling the sold out crowd at Rupp Arena, "Anybody down for a game with St. John's?"

The quote quickly made headlines on social media and even reached Pitino's office in Queens as he responded the next day saying, "[St. John's] accepts, this year at [Kentucky], next year at the Mecca!"

"Looking forward to saying goodbye to [Kentucky]."

There is no confirmation of the home-and-home series yet but it appears likely with both coaches motivated to get the games secured.

“Coach Pitino changed me,” Pope said during his press conference on Sunday. “He changed me to my soul, changed my DNA as a human being. He allowed me to be someone who feels like they can walk into any room and take on any impossible task. And I will love him forever."

"I say (play) St. John’s because I have so much admiration for him. He is the best that did it.”

Pitino left Kentucky after the 1997 season, which the Wildcats fell in the National Championship as they tried to win back-to-back titles, to become the Boston Celtics head coach. He would return to the state as the head coach of Louisville in 2001 and looked upon as the villian by Wildcat fans.

The last time the Red Storm and the Wildcats met was in 2011-12 as Kentucky, which won the National Championship that season, won by 22 points inside Rupp Arena.

St. John's hasn't hosted Kentucky at Madison Square Garden since 2000-01, when the Johnnies emerged with a 1-point victory.