At the smaller stage, Rick Pitino still ‘claims’ and wins

NEW ROCHELLE, NY – Sunday didn’t go as planned for the Iona University men’s basketball team. Visit St. Peter’s is playing a rough and messy ball, getting Iona into bad and unlikeable trouble. Disappointment was evident when Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona’s second striker, fiercely contested with Hassan Drame of St. Peter’s to the point that both players committed technical fouls in a near-fight situation.

And when Jaylen Murray hit the treble just before the halftime whistle to put St. Peter’s take the lead, it’s easy for the Gaels to think – as they retreat to the dressing room – that maybe it’s not their day.

But moments of frustration, or resignation, don’t last. Iona beefed up defense, increased attack speed and raced with a comfortable 85-77 victory, ensuring that the only drama left in the Atlantic Metro Sports Conference will be whether Iona (18-3, 10-0) could become the first team to go unbeaten in the tournament since La Salle did it 32 years ago.

As the game ended, Iona Coach Rick Pitino was handed the ball for his 800th college career win, even though that total adds up to 123 wins – including the national championship season 2012-13 – in Louisville is wiped out by the NCAA after a scandal Focus on players and recruits are provided strippers and prostitutes.

He was then watered by his players in Iona’s dressing room.

In an accidental twist, Pitino’s major milestone, though unofficial, came amid continued dysfunction in Louisville, not ending with his sacking in 2017. After a season with caretaker coach, Louisville hired Chris Mack as Pitino’s replacement. Mack was given a six-game suspension at the start of the 2021-22 season when a potential NCAA violation came to light from an audio recording of his conversation with The former assistant was later accused of blackmailing the school. Mack left the program last week with a $4.8 million payout.

“I have no grudge against Louisville because everyone who made Tom Jurich leave,” said Pitino, referring to his former sporting director, who was pushed out with him. “One man lost his company,” added Pitino, referring to John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s, who resign as president and from the board of trustees of the University of Louisville after using a racial slur. “The other guy…”

He quickly shifted gears, adding that he hopes Louisville will hire Kenny Payne, a former Louisville player and Kentucky assistant who is now on the Knicks’ coaching staff.

“I just hope,” Pitino said. “I don’t endorse him because that would probably be his killer.”

More than four years ago, Pitino was regrettably fired, becoming the only head coach to lose his job in a federal corruption investigation that otherwise only cost their assistants. The NCAA has yet to resolve the case of Louisville from the Pitino era, but after being exiled to Greece – Mr. coached parts of two seasons at Panathinaikos – Pitino returns just days after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic to take a job at Iona.

Iona’s quaint campus in New Rochelle, NY, with its small brick buildings 20 miles north of Pitino’s Manhattan home, is where coaches imagine they’ll land in their final days. their same. Rick Majerus often mused about ending his career in St.

“It doesn’t have the bells and whistles I’ve had in Louisville and Kentucky, but none of that bothers me,” said Pitino, 69, adding that as long as a supportive administration remains, he will be pleased with Iona. He loves taking the bus to games – he’s taking his first flight to a conference game this weekend with Canisius and Niagara – and cherishes working with players and developing a team ethic .

“It’s an easy lifestyle — to train kids who really care,” says Pitino. “We don’t worry about ‘Get NIL [name, image and likeness] for $150,000. ‘ Nobody worries about that; you only worry about playing ball, getting better. ”

That has always been the core tenet of Pitino teams.

They are rarely gathered by rafters of future NBA stars – Utah Jazz keeper Donovan Mitchell is one of the few exceptions in Louisville, with several others in Kentucky. Instead, Pitino looks for potential clients who have a desire to work in their craft.

This is what has attracted three budding transfers – graduate defenders Tyson Jolly (Southern Methodist) and Elijah Joiner (Tulsa) and junior striker Quinn Slazinski (Louisville) – to Iona after last season.

“I’d say it’s been a process,” says Jolly, who started her college career at Baylor and is now at her fourth school, with a smile. Pitino will replace him to pick up the ball and make a pass after beating his man in dribbling. He is worried about dribbling going into trouble, but Pitino wants him to continue to put stress on the defence.

“I fought with him – we fought with him – from the very beginning when we got here because he was asking too much and we didn’t understand exactly what he wanted,” Jolly said. neither he nor his teammates can carry cell phones in the team. meals and other group activities, a rule that applies to the team’s summer trip to Greece. “But he’s coaching us so we can figure it out and then, once we get it, he’ll be proud of us.”

Pitino will be proud of Dylan Van Eyck, a 6-foot-8 graduate from the Netherlands, when he stops cheering and picks his man on the defensive. (There’s nothing else to quibble with Van Eyck, the sixth man who adds whatever the Gaels needs – saves, scores, passes and saves.)

Or Walter Clayton Jr., when he became a sophomore and learned the intricacies of a defensive reconnaissance report. (Clayton, a freshman guard who received a scholarship to play football in Florida, Nebraska and Tennessee, was on the bench.)

Or Osborn Shema, a seven-foot-tall reserve centre-back, when he put on another 20 pounds and wasn’t pushed around under the basket. (Shema provided five points, five rebounds, three assists, two saves and a steal against St. Peter’s.)

But nothing would please Pitino more than when Joseph, a 6-foot-9 sophomore with unimaginably long arms, realized that among the many attributes he brought to Gaels, points running is not one of them. On Sunday, Joseph was seated next to Pitino after dribbling in front of the St. Peter and lost the ball right in front of Iona’s bench.

Apparently it’s a repeat violation.

“I said, ‘Okay, I’ll learn to speak Nigerian or you’ll learn English better,’” says Pitino.

Joseph protested that no one was allowed to open.

“Okay, I’ll watch the movie,” Pitino told him. “If it’s open, God forbid you. And he started laughing. I said, “No, it’s not fun.”

But Pitino smiled.

It was the gesture of a coach who hopes that Joseph’s careless dribbling, along with many of his team’s shortcomings, will be wiped out in the next six weeks, by a time when his teams will He usually plays the best.

As it stands, the Gaels have built a solid foundation: Knocked out Alabama in November – they nearly upset the Crimson Tide in the NCAA tournament last March – and beat Liberty, the division’s lead team. himself in the ASUN and Appalachian State Conference, leading the Solar Belt Conference. Their three losses were against Kansas, Belmont and Saint Louis.

But here’s a group that seems determined to do more than win an invitation to the NCAA tournament. It’s a team that – like their once attentive coach – insists they will last for a while. At the smaller stage, Rick Pitino still ‘claims’ and wins

Fry Electronics Team

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