Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino has been tapped as the next basketball coach of Iona. The university announced Pitino’s hiring Saturday shortly after CBS Sports reported that Pitino told his Panathinaikos B.C. players that he would return to coach college basketball this year — but still planned to finish the Euroleague season if and when league play resumed.
Pitino returned to the United States in the past few days, which enabled him to interview for the Iona job in an effort to land what would likely be the final college gig of his career. This Pitino news comes as a major headline less than 48 hours removed from the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament.
It also lands one day after the job officially came open on Friday, when Tim Cluess stepped down after taking the season off due to health issues.
“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College,” Pitino said in Iona’s announcement. “Tim Cluess has done a spectacular job creating success and a winning spirit. I wish Tim a speedy recovery and Iona will always cherish his accomplishments. 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. The priority in New Rochelle right now is helping students continue their education online in light of the coronavirus and I very much look forward to the day when the community is back on campus and to get to work on further elevating this strong program.”