Rick Pitino’s first season back in the college basketball world is now complete.
Though many expected his stay there to be short, and he’s been linked to several open jobs in the sport, Pitino said Saturday that he has no plan to leave Iona anytime soon.
The 68-year-old, after the Gaels’ 68-55 loss to Alabama in the NCAA tournament, said he wants “no part of the so-called big-time anymore.”
"It's no longer about me trying to move up any ladders, make more money," Pitino said, via ESPN. "I'm at a great place in my life. I can coach six, seven more years, God willing, just try to make young men better, try to make the program reach heights it's never reached. That's all I have planned. It's a great place to be. There's some things that suck about being 68. The great thing about it is being at Iona, being able to teach with nobody bothering you, just make the players better."
Pitino: ‘I’m in heaven right now’
Pitino was hired at Iona before the season started after a stint in the EuroLeague with Panathinaikos in Greece. That marked his first coaching job since he was fired from Louisville as a result of the massive federal investigation into corruption throughout college basketball.
“I’m not turned off by the big programs, I’m turned off about what happened to me,” he said, via ESPN.
Pitino spent 16 seasons at Louisville before he was fired in 2017, and led them to three Final Fours and a national title. Pitino also spent eight seasons at Kentucky, where he led the Wildcats to a national title in 1996. He also spent two seasons at Providence and five at Boston. He briefly spent time in the NBA too, both with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.
Having worked at essentially every level in the sport, Pitino sounds content.
"I want to take a smaller school, like a Providence, like an Iona, a small school and try to make it big," Pitino said, via ESPN. "But I wanted no part of any of that other, I had enough of that. It turned me off, to be quite honest with you, in a lot of different areas. I now don't have to look over my shoulder and see who I'm going to trust, who I'm not going to trust.
"I'm in heaven right now, and where I need to be."
Pitino: ‘Iona is going to be a force’
Pitino and the Gaels finished the season with a 12-6 overall record, and had to deal with several lengthy COVID-19 shutdowns throughout their season. They rallied in the MAAC tournament, however, and beat Fairfield in the championship game to still reach the NCAA tournament — Pitino’s 22nd appearance.
With one year under his belt, and hopefully the coronavirus pandemic behind him, Pitino thinks he can turn Iona into a powerhouse.
"We just got to improve the program, take the next step," he said, via ESPN. "We will take the next step. There's no doubt in my mind that Iona is going to be a force to be reckoned with down the road."
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