Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino returns to college basketball, hired to be next coach at Iona

Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino has been tapped as the next basketball coach of Iona. Iona announced Pitino’s hiring Saturday shortly after CBS Sports reported that Pitino told his Panathinaikos B.C. players that he would return to coach college basketball this year but still planned to finish the Euroleague season if and when league play resumed. 

Pitino has returned to the United States, enabling him to interview in an effort to land what would likely be the final college gig of his career. Iona is the pick, the news coming one day after the job officially came open on Friday when Tim Cluess stepped down after taking the year off due to health issues. 

“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College,” Pitino said in Iona’s announcement. “Tim Cluess has done a spectacular job creating success and a winning spirit. I wish Tim a speedy recovery and Iona will always cherish his accomplishments. At Iona, I will work with the same passion, hunger and drive that I’ve had for over forty years. There is a real professionalism in how things are run here and this is a very tight, strong community. The priority in New Rochelle right now is helping students continue their education online in light of the coronavirus and I very much look forward to the day when the community is back on campus and to get to work on further elevating this strong program.”  

Pitino coached at Louisville from 2001 to 2017 where he won a national championship and went to three Final Fours before being fired in October of 2017 amid a pay-for-play scandal.

Since his ouster, Pitino, 67, has been coaching in Greece for Panathinaikos — and with success. It won the Greek Cup and Greek League last year. He left the team briefly to deal with a family matter but was rehired in November.

The Euroleague halted play earlier this week due to concerns and precautions regarding the coronavirus pandemic.   

“He hated coaching pros, complained about it every day,” a source told CBS Sports.

Pitino’s career record in college is 647-271. 

“I am delighted to welcome Rick Pitino to Gael Nation,” said Director of Athletics Matthew Glovaski. “Rick is a Hall of Fame coach who has won at the highest levels and he is committed to leading our student-athletes and our program to national prominence. He brings passion and energy and shares our desire to build a winning program that will make our community proud.”  

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