Pitino notches milestone win at Hynes Center as Gaels stay atop MAAC


Photo Courtesy of icgaels.com

Pitino is the only coach to lead three different teams to a Final Four appearance.  

Giovanni Paolo Tagliafierro, Sports Editor

Iona men’s basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino totaled his 800th career victory following Iona’s 85-77 win over Saint Peter’s on Jan. 30 in New Rochelle.  


Pitino now sits behind John Calipari as the 12th-most winningest head coach in NCAA Division-I men’s basketball history. This total does not include the 123 wins over a three-year span at Louisville, which were vacated by the NCAA.  


The 46-year head coaching veteran’s win total now also ranks him sixth all-time in active wins behind legendary coaches like Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and lastly Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.  


Following the game, Pitino said in the postgame press conference that he was glad he reached this mark at Iona College, before making it known that he was still hungry for more victories in New Rochelle.  


“I told the team that I was glad that I got 800 here,” Pitino said. “But I want to get another 200 here.”  


The head coach continued by praising Iona, including President Seamus Carey, Ph.D. and Athletic Director Matt Glovaski. He reiterated the comfort he feels at the head of the Gaels, as well the direction he sees the program headed in.  


“I think we can do great things here,” the coach said. “We can recruit great players, and that’s the key.”  


Fans of the Maroon and Gold have seen the merit behind that belief in action throughout the season, as newcomers Tyson Jolly and Elijah Joiner continue to be the backbone of Iona’s offense. Sophomore Nelly Junior Joseph, who joined the team last season as the centerpiece of Pitino’s first recruiting class, has already proven to be a standout player in the conference. 


Pitino has placed an emphasis on his high-ceiling recruiting philosophy, which he has abided by in his previous high-major stops at Kentucky and Louisville. The coach has been committed to a brand of scouting that isn’t based on linear ranking metrics or prior accolades, but on the athletes’ desire to grow their game.  


The Gaels have lulled into a minor stretch of poor play following the milestone victory against Saint Peter’s, putting on a poor offensive performance in a 70-62 win over Canisius on Feb. 4, along with an 71-80 loss to Niagara, the Gaels’ first conference loss this season. These teams’ win totals combined are equivalent to Iona’s 19 wins.  


Iona still sits on top in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings at 11-1 in conference play, while Saint Peter’s comes in at the second spot two games back.  


Pitino and his squad will face off against Siena in the state’s capital on Friday night, where Iona will look for a repeat of their Jan. 25 matchup against Siena where they cruised to a 74-57 victory. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m.