Opinion: Only time will tell if Rick Pitino is in it for the long haul at little Iona
INDIANAPOLIS — The questions will come because he’s Rick Pitino.
A Hall of Fame coach with two national titles and a closet full of designer suits, he can’t possibly be serious about ending his career at a place like Iona. Some big-name school – like, say, Indiana – will find itself in need of rescuing, and will throw a bunch of money and promises at Pitino.
And of course he’ll accept because when you have spent almost your entire career at the pinnacle of college basketball, the occasional turn in the spotlight at a mid-major just won’t do.
Unless maybe, just maybe, Pitino is sincere when he says he’s had enough. That beneath those tailored suit coats he remains bruised from his ugly exit at Louisville, the scars unlikely ever to fade.
“I wanted no part of the so-called big-time anymore,” Pitino said Saturday after his latest project, the Gaels, gave second-seeded Alabama almost more than it could handle for 30 minutes before falling 68-55. “I had enough of that. I wanted to take a smaller school, like a Providence, like an Iona, a small school, and try to make it big. But I wanted no part of any of that other. I had enough of that. It turned me off, to be quite honest with you, in a lot of different areas.
“I now don't have to look over my shoulder to see who I'm going to trust, who I'm not going to trust,” he added, the aggrievance obvious in his voice.
Pitino was hardly blameless for the debacle at Louisville, which cost the Cardinals their 2013 national title and more than 100 wins. While he insists he had no role in either the pay-for-play scandal or allegations that a basketball staffer paid escorts to have sex with players and recruits, he hired the people who were responsible for the misdeeds. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for a coach with Pitino's résumé.
But after a year of penance, aka coaching in the Greek league, Iona came calling.
The hire made sense for the Gaels, who’d been successful but never wildly so, and needed to rebuild their program after longtime coach Tim Cluess stepped down because of health issues.
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