Rick Pitino was grateful to finally be back on the college sidelines on Monday night, even if the new Iona coach’s first NCAA game since his 2017 Louisville Shooting was down by a 22-point – Defeat to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center spoiled.
The 68-year-old Hall of Famer – and the only coach in NCAA history to lead three schools to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) – said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the « most noticeable » difference His return from his last four decades in coaching was the lack of fans in the arena due to COVID-19.
“Quite different. It’s a creepy feeling, it’s almost like you’re scrimmaging except that you’re playing a real game, ”Pitino told The Post. « You hear all the voices and it’s just very different. It’s a creepy feeling not to have fans. You don’t even see the announcers, you don’t say hello to the referees. It was very different. ”
The games against Merrimack (Thursday) and Hofstra (Saturday) later this week are « as far as we know » on, « said Pitino. But the Gaels have already been badly hit by the pandemic, including Pitinos with his originally anticipated debut in November. 25 at Fordham – and three more games – canceled. The MAAC also announced Tuesday that Ionas would play two games in December. 11-12 against Monmouth were postponed for February. 26-27.
Despite a recent two-week quarantine for his team for a positive COVID-19 test, Pitino agreed to play Seton Hall on Saturday – trained by his former assistant and former Iona head coach Kevin Willard – provided that the pirates Will come to Madison Square Garden for a game next season.
With no two injured starters, senior point guard Asante Gist and 7-foot-1 runner-up Osborn Shema, the Gaels led by nine points towards the end of the first half before the hall took them 51:27 after a break defeated.
« It was a crazy time, we just got out of quarantine and I knew half of my team wasn’t in favor of playing the game, » said Pitino. « They said: » Coach, we are out of shape. « I said, ‘See, we may not even be able to play 15 games this year. Let’s just play it to get some experience. « So it was good for that. ”
Pitino was an outspoken proponent of postponing the season to March and running a belated NCAA tournament that would include all Division I teams in what he calls « May Madness. ». ”
He repeated that suggestion Tuesday, but the Long Islander native is also excited to see if his team – with more than a dozen new players – can get out of the MAAC in his first season and reach a traditional field of 68 teams in New Rochelle.
Iona had reached four consecutive NCAA tournaments under the since-retired Tim Cluess from 2016 to 2019, before completing a 12:17 season under the provisional replacement of Tra Arnold last year.
« I have to learn the league, but I think Iona is a sleeping giant, » said Pitino. “And I judge that by some of the people I can now recruit. I believe in Gonzaga’s recruiting model, the St. . Mary’s recruiting model states that 40 to 50 percent of your team must be foreign players.
« I don’t know if we can do a Gonzaga, but I know we can do a St. can do. Marys, and I know we can make this one of the strongest programs on the east coast. But that takes great recruiting and careful player development, and those two things I think got off to a good start. [Monday] I saw some good things that night and I saw some things that definitely need to be improved in order for us to be a better team and we will work on that. ”
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Iona Gaels Men’s Basketball, Rick Pitino, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Monmouth Hawks Men’s Basketball, Seton Hall Pirates Men’s Basketball, Kevin Willard, NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament
World News – USA – Rick Pitinos Returns going to college was « scary »
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