Rick Pitino is reportedly set to return to the college basketball world by succeeding Tim Cluess as the head coach at Iona.
There may not be much happening in sports right now, but Rick Pitino has taken the opportunity to re-enter the college basketball world. Pitino, who hasn’t coached collegiately since being fired by Louisville in 2017, is reportedly closing in on a deal to become the next head coach at Iona:
Yahoo! Sports‘ Pete Thamel is also reporting that the expectation is that Pitino will be hired by Iona soon. The Gaels just entered the head coaching market yesterday after Tim Cluess, the most successful coach in program history, stepped down due to health issues.
Cluess, who had guided Iona to six NCAA Tournament appearances, including four straight MAAC Tournament crowns from 2016-19, did not coach this season due to an undisclosed medical condition. Iona announced that Cluess is remaining with the program as an advisor, but they appear to be moving swiftly to fill his shoes with a legendary coach in Pitino.
CBS Sports‘ Jon Rothstein also tweeted out a quote from Pitino about his decision to coach at Iona.
Having a coach as renowned as Pitino land in New Rochelle is a massive shock to the world of mid-major basketball. The Iona program took a major step forward under Cluess, who built them into a MAAC powerhouse, and recently renovated their facilities as well.
Having Pitino on board should allow Iona to be able to recruit higher caliber players and schedule bigger opponents in the non-conference season. The program has already been a top-flight mid-major for the past decade, and adding a coach like Pitino could push them closer to the tier that schools like Gonzaga and Dayton have been occupying.
There are still a few unsettled questions from the end of Pitino’s time at Louisville, particularly in regards to the NCAA, but this is about as good of a hire as a school like Iona could ever dream of making. The Gaels already have some intriguing players on the roster, including former Minnesota point guard Isaiah Washington, and it will be intriguing to see what kind of damage Pitino can do at the mid-major level.