In the most significant college coaching hire in the NCAA this offseason, President Seamus Carey, Ph.D., and Director of Athletics Matthew Glovaski landed Rick Pitino – a two-time National Champion and Naismith Hall of Fame inductee – to be the 14th head men’s basketball coach in Iona College history. Pitino spent the last two seasons in the EuroLeague with Panathinaikos B.C. after 38 years as a head coach in both the NCAA and the NBA.
Pitino replaces legendary former head coach Tim Cluess who steered the Iona College men’s basketball program to unprecedented success over the last decade. Cluess retired shortly after the 2019-2020 season due to health reasons. Cluess won five Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament championships and four regular season titles during his nine years on the sidelines. His MAAC tournament win total is the most all-time in league history and his regular season ranks #2.
“I am delighted to welcome Rick Pitino to Gael Nation,” said Glovaski in the announcement. “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.”
“Rick has demonstrated that he cares deeply about helping student-athletes achieve great success on and off the court,” President Carey said at the time of Pitino’s hire. “After a thorough interview process, we are confident that Rick’s experience and commitment to Iona and our community make him the right person to continue to build on Tim Cluess’ success. We welcome Rick and his family to New Rochelle and look forward to accomplishing big things together.”
Pitino, who has a stellar reputation for success on the court and a dedication to student-athlete academic success, has served as head coach of the University of Louisville (2001-2017, winning the 2013 NCAA Championship), University of Kentucky (1989-1997, winning the 1996 NCAA Championship), Providence College (1985-1987), Boston University (1978-1983) and Hawaii (last six games 1975-1976). The list of Pitino’s accolades is endless. Among them, he has posted a 770-271 overall record and a 54-19 record in the NCAA Tournament, the third highest winning percentage among active coaches. Pitino is the first coach to take three different schools to the NCAA Final Four and to win an NCAA Championship at two different schools. In addition to his college career, he spent time with the New York Knicks in the late 1980s and the Boston Celtics at the turn of the century.
In addition to its basketball history and the success of its head coaches, Iona and New Rochelle appeal to Pitino because of his roots growing up in Manhattan and his high school days in the CSHAA at St. Dominic on Long Island. He also has ties to the New York metropolitan area from his time as coach of the Knicks, a son that lives in nearby Harrison, New York, and his long-time affiliation with Winged Foot Golf Club.
Pitino and his family, including his wife Joanne, his children, and grandchildren, are excited to join the Iona community.