INDIANAPOLIS — After directing Iona into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in his first season as coach, Rick Pitino has no plans to leave.
Pitino on Saturday said he needs”no portion of the so-called major time ,” since the Gaels’ season finished with a 68-55 loss to No. 2 seed Alabama at the first round of this tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Iona, a No. 15 seed in the East Region, overcame an extended pause to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament under Pitino, who has made 22 NCAA tournament appearances with five different programs.
He returned to college basketball this year after training in the EuroLeague for Greek club Panathinaikos.
Pitino appeared to reference his departure Saturday, saying,”I’m not turned off by the big programs, I’m turned away about what happened to me personally .”
“It is no more about me attempting to move any ladders up, make more money,” he added. “I am at a wonderful place in my life. I will trainer six, seven more years, God willing, just try to make young men better, try to make the program reach heights it’s never reached. That’s all I have planned. It’s a wonderful place to be. The excellent thing about it’s being at Iona, being able to instruct with nobody bothering you, just make the players better.”
“I wish to have a smaller college, like a Providence, such as an Iona, a small school and try to make it big,” said Pitino, who made his first Final Four as Providence’s coach in 1987. “However, I wanted no part of some of that other, I had enough of that. It turned me off, to be quite frank with you, in a lot of different areas. I don’t have to look over my shoulder and find out who I’m going to trust, who I am not going to trust.
“I’m in heaven right now, and where I need to be.”
Pitino is excited about building more achievement at Iona, saying that the team would be”better” in his next season. He noticed several young players and a better schedule he believes may create the Gaels a contender for an at-large NCAA tournament berth in future decades. Pitino listed potential home games against Seton Hall and BYU at Madison Square Garden, also challenged his sonRichard, the new coach at New Mexico, to face”the mighty Gaels” next year.
“We just got to enhance the program, take another step,” he explained. “We shall take another step. There is little doubt in my mind that Iona is going to be a power to be reckoned with down the street.”