Pitino lays out plans for Men’s basketball


Iona College men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino will kick off the Gaels’ Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference season with a game against Saint Peter’s on Dec. 8. // Photo courtesy of icgaels.com

Frances Hoey, Social Media Manager

As Iona kicks off virtual homecoming, Vin Parise ’00 had the opportunity to sit down with the new head coach of Iona Men’s Basketball, Rick Pitino. A name that is no stranger to the college basketball world, Rick Pitino brings major experience to the Iona program, having coached four different colleges to the NCAA tournament. In the interview, Coach Pitino provided Iona fans with some insight into what this program structure will look like and what to expect from the Gaels in the upcoming basketball season.


While most game strategy tends to focus on the press and quick offense, Coach Pitino centers his teams on the other end of the court with emphasis on a strong defensive style of play.


“If you’re not a great defensive team, no matter how many points you’re up, you’re going to fold,” Pitino said via Zoom video call.


Despite the many challenges of the pandemic on athletics, including the push-back of the basketball season, Coach Pitino and his team have found many advantages as well.


“We have so much to teach in so little time, so the fact that the season has been moved back is another way that COVID has helped us,” Pitino said.


With only four returning players, Coach Pitino faced the task of rebuilding the Iona program.


“Recruiting is the lifeline of every program, and if Iona College wants to get out of the first round, it’s all going to be about recruiting,” Pitino said.


Whereas former head coach Tim Cluess took the approach of basing recruiting on transfer players from junior colleges, Coach Pitino treats the process rather different. He has formed a team of all different backgrounds, experiences and skills.


“I really don’t care where they’re from, as long as they have that PHD,” Pitino said.


A term to get familiar with under a Pitino administration is ‘PHD,’ which stands for passion, hunger and drive.

By recruiting players and staff that contain these values, Coach Pitino has high standards for the program.


“Our goal is to win the national championship every year we step on the court,” Pitino said.


Looking beyond the pandemic, Coach Pitino has set new goals for the Iona program. In future seasons, fans can expect to see the Hynes facilities receive major upgrades, many games held in professional venues such as Madison Square Garden and Iona face off against top NCAA teams in the nonconference schedule.