ALBANY, N.Y. – Rick Pitino insists he doesn't know his next move. He did give a pretty good hint about what's under consideration.
After the 70-year-old Hall of Famer's 13th-seeded Iona team was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by UConn on Friday, he addressed speculation that St. John's is targeting him as its next coach.
He also said he didn't know if he had coached his last game with the Gaels.
“I really don’t have an answer to it, to be honest with you. I have no idea if it is or isn’t because I’ve focused everything on this game, trying to develop a plan to beat Connecticut,” Pitino said.
Pitino talked earlier this week about how much he admires St. John's President Rev. Brian Shanley, who previously worked at Providence.
Pitino broke into the Big East as a head coach at Providence in 1986 and made one of the most memorable Final Four runs in tournament history with the Friars in 1987.
St. John's, which fired Mike Anderson after the Big East Tournament, was a power in the conference back then, but the Red Storm have slipped into a long run of mediocrity over the last two decades.
Pitino said he has no timetable on when he will make a decision about his future, and spoke directly to reports about St. John's interest.
“I really haven’t put any thought into it at all,” Pitino said. "I hear the question from you, and I think when you start thinking ahead, you always fail.
“We put a lot of effort into this game. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s right for me, another job. I don’t know that. It’s something, like I said before, I know you’re all alluding to St. John’s, but I’ve never seen St. John’s. Somebody sent me a clip.”
Pitino told an anecdote about playing at St. John's in 1987, beating Lou Carnesecca's team and then pushing star guard Billy Donovan into the locker room shower because officials were still debating whether to put an extra second back on the clock.
“That was the last thing I remember about being at St. John’s. That was 1987, guys, 1987,” Pitino said. "So I don’t remember too much about it, to tell you the truth, to be perfectly transparent.
“You don’t buy houses without looking at the garage and the upstairs and the kitchen and everything. You don’t just buy a house.”
Pitino has won national championships with Kentucky and Louisville, but he was fired by Louisville before the 2017-18 season after an FBI investigation into college basketball led to allegations of NCAA violations.
It was the third scandal, both personal and professional, in an eight-year period with Louisville.
Ultimately, Pitino was exonerated in the FBI-related case — which he reminded everyone about at his postgame news conference Friday — five years after he was fired.
“So for five years they put me in the outhouse because they couldn’t get their stuff together,” Pitino said.
“So it’s just the breaks of the game. You can’t look back. The past, it’s always cherished. You learn from it, you cherish the past. I’ve been to seven Final Fours, two championships, and I cherish that. I also learn from the mistakes that were made," he said.
Pitino is 64-22 in three years with Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, including two NCAA Tournament appearances. The small Catholic school in New Rochelle, New York, just north of the city, hired him with the NCAA cloud still over his head, but it's a long way from the Big East.
He lamented earlier this week the pressure of being in a one-NCAA bid conference. After getting routed by UConn in the second half, he talked about how the Gaels just couldn't match up physically with one of the best teams in the country.
“The present is where we’re at right now, and it’s disappointing for my guys because they’re a great group of kids,” Pitino said. “In the future, I have really no idea what the future may bring because I’ve got to look at the grand scheme of things about winning, and winning is very important because we all work so hard, every coach works so hard.”
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