Rick Pitino hopes to finish his basketball career where it began—in New York—after he was named head coach of the Iona College men’s basketball team March 14.
Pitino, 67, takes over a program that finished 12-17 this season under interim coach Tra Arnold.
Before the 2019-2020 season, the Gaels won five Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournaments and four MAAC regular-season titles in nine seasons under Tim Cluess, who stepped down as head coach March 13 to “focus on making a full recovery from his recent health concerns” that sidelined him for the 2019-2020 season. Cluess will continue serving Iona College in an advisory role.
“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College,” said Pitino in a statement. “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.
Pitino has compiled a 770-221 overall record and a 54-19 NCAA tournament record in his 32 seasons as a college head coach. His .740 winning percentage ranks third among active coaches.
“At Iona, I will work with the same passion, hunger and drive that I’ve had for over 40 years,” Pitino said. “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.”
Pitino was the first coach to lead two different programs—Kentucky and Louisville—to national championships, and three programs—Providence, Kentucky and Louisville—to the NCAA Final Four. Louisville later vacated its national title due to NCAA sanctions for infractions by the program.
He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
“I am delighted to welcome Rick Pitino to Gael Nation,” said Matthew Glovaski, Iona College’s athletic director. “Rick is a Hall of Fame coach who has won at the highest levels and he is committed to leading our student-athletes and our program to national prominence.”
Born in New York City and raised on Long Island, Pitino attended St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay and the University of Massachusetts.
He served as a college head coach at Hawaii, Boston University, Providence, Kentucky and Louisville, and coached in the NBA with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.
Since 2018, Pitino coached Panathinaikos in Greece.