Despite Pitino’s record, he has some big shoes to fill

Gerald Sullivan , Contributing Writer

It’s not often that a hall of fame coach is the one with big shoes to fill.

Rick Pitino is a former national champion and one of two coaches to bring three different schools to a Final Four. He has coached college basketball giants like Louisville and Kentucky, professional teams in Europe and the Knicks and Celtics in the NBA. His basketball coaching resumé cannot be matched by many, and now he will be the head coach of Iona basketball.

But to live up to his predecessor will be a tough task.

Tim Cluess was hired by Iona in the spring of 2010. He was a former Nassau County cop who had experienced great success at local stops like St. Mary’s High School and then C.W. Post in Division 2, but Iona College would be his first Division 1 job.

Cluess took Iona to heights that the program had not seen in decades. His legacy includes at least 20 wins in eight of his nine seasons, five Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships, four straight MAAC tournament titles in his final four years and six NCAA tournament berths, including the first at-large berth in program history. He coached three MAAC Player of the Year recipients and had at least one player make the All-MAAC first team in every year he coached. He also won MAAC Coach of the Year twice.

Cluess had to step down last month due to health issues, and Iona will miss him dearly.

“I want to sincerely thank the Iona College community and administration for the opportunity to be a part of Gael Nation for the past ten years,” Cluess said in a statement released by Iona.

“We’re extremely proud of coach Cluess and how he represented our program over the last 10 years,” Athletic Director Matthew Glovaski said.

Pitino is inheriting a program that has had a lot of recent success, but he’s also inheriting a roster that just went 12-17 last season and is losing two All-MAAC players in seniors E.J. Crawford and senior Tajuan Agee. However, the team does return talented players such as junior Isaiah Washington and junior Dylan Van Eyck, among others. Pitino has also brought in a very good recruiting class featuring three top 100 junior college prospects.

Pitino is one of the greatest to ever coach in college basketball and will likely continue his winning ways at Iona. However, he has a tough act to follow as he is following the greatest basketball coach Iona has had: Tim Cluess.