Rick Pitino says familiar with Alabama basketball since he watches Kentucky games 'a lot'

Erik Hall
The Tuscaloosa News

Rick Pitino is back in the NCAA Tournament as the Iona men's basketball head coach, and in the first round, his team is scheduled to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, March 20. 

Pitino said on CBS Sports Network that he is familiar with Alabama basketball since he watches "a lot of" Kentucky Wildcats games. He was the Kentucky head coach from 1989-97, and he guided UK to the 1996 NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship. 

"I watched them play about five or six times this year, because if they play Kentucky, I watch a lot of the Kentucky games," Pitino said. "I watched them play because I was interested in their style of play. Because 40% of what they do is 3-point shooting. About 40-some-odd percent is getting layups or getting fouled. About 2% is mid-range jump shots.

"So they got a dynamic team, a dynamic style of play," Pitino added. "And when you're a two-seed, and when you win the SEC, you're a great basketball team. I've been there. The coach has done a fantastic job with developing that style of play."

Pitino guided Kentucky to four SEC regular season championships in 1991-92, 1993-94, 1994-95, and 1995-96. He led the UK Wildcats to five SEC Tournament championships in 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95, and 1996-97. 

Rick Pitino explains handling Iona's COVID-19 pauses

Iona College men's basketball head coach Rick Pitino on the sidelines during their game between Iona College and Morgan State at Iona College in New Rochelle, Dec. 8, 2020.

Rick Pitino said that his Iona men's basketball team had four pauses due to COVID-19 during the 2020-21 season. 

It led to his team not playing a game from Dec. 23 to Feb. 12.

Iona played five games between Feb. 12-20, but then Iona's leading scorer Isaiah Ross tested positive for COVID-19. It led to Iona going on its fourth pause at that point from Feb. 20 until the MAAC Tournament started March 9.

Pitino made a point to tell his team that these pauses weren't a tragedy. 

"Look, over 500,000 people have passed away, and most of them without funeral services. That's a real tragedy," Pitino said on CBS Sports Network. "What we're going through is adversity. We'll be fine. We'll get back in shape." 

Pitino said he took a different approach to practice when his team resumed practicing before the MAAC Tournament. 

"If you have a tough practice after going 14 days, you're going to pull a hamstring, you're going to pull a groin, without doing anything. So I did 2-hour-15-minute to 2-hour-30-minute practice double sessions with a lot of stretching," Pitino said. "We got through it, and after five days, we're back in shape and ready to go."

Here's more Alabama basketball news: 

The 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. CT on Monday, April 5. 

Erik Hall is the lead digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik