Rick Pitino returning to college basketball as new Iona coach
Rick Pitino has returned to college basketball.
The 67-year-old Hall of Famer and national title-winning coach accepted a job at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, the school announced Saturday.
Pitino spent the past year coaching Panathinaikos B.C. in Greece, where he guided the pro team to a Greek Cup last year. He owns a 647-271 college record and replaces Tim Cluess, who resigned at the end of the 2019-20 season due to health concerns.
"My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College," Pitino said in a school statement. "Tim Cluess has done a spectacular job creating success and a winning spirit. At Iona, I will work with the same passion, hunger and drive that I’ve had for over forty years. There is a real professionalism in how things are run here and this is a very tight, strong community."
Pitino spent 30 seasons coaching college basketball but was fired as Louisville's coach in 2017 amid a pay-for-play scheme with a recruit.
He guided Kentucky to a national title in 1996 and Louisville to a championship in 2013. But a sex-for-pay scandal forced his Cardinals to vacate their title.
Iona is a mid-major program in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Cluess, a two-time MAAC Coach of the Year, took the Gaels to the postseason in all but his final season, including six NCAA tournament appearances and two NIT trips in 10 seasons.
"After a thorough interview process we are confident that Rick’s experience and commitment to Iona and our community make him the right person," Iona College president Seamus Carey said in a school statement.
Even with an NCAA job, Pitino implied Saturday that he would finish out his coaching tenure overseas if play resumed after being cancelled because of the coronavirus.
Pitino tweeted Saturday shortly before the hire was announced, "Hope we can finish the season with the Euroleague. I will treasure coaching the PAO players for the rest of my life. Hoping we find a vaccine and a cure soon."