Rick Pitino invited a Sweet 16 coach to Winged Foot — who didn’t know its prominence

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Erik Hall, The Tuscaloosa News
·2 min read
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Alabama men’s basketball head coach Nate Oats and Iona men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino talked on the phone after their teams played in the NCAA Tournament first round.

Oats said they talked mostly about basketball. He wanted feedback from the hall of fame coach after Alabama beat Iona 68-55.

But during an interview with WJOX-FM 94.5, Oats said something else came up.

Pitino invited Oats to come to Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, New York. Winged Foot’s West Course hosted the 2020 U.S. Open golf tournament.

The Iona College men’s basketball coach was photographed watching the U.S. Open from a perch behind the third green with assistant coaches Tom Abatemarco and Ricky Johns.

The Hall-of-Fame coach, who surprised the college basketball world when he was hired by Iona in March, is a Winged Foot member. Pitino tweeted a photo of himself teeing off on the same hole earlier this month.

Although Oats appreciated the invitation, he seemed oblivious.

“He talked to me about where he’s living up there — what’s that Winwood?” Oats said. “What’s the big-time golf course up there?”

One of the show’s hosts asked if Oats meant Winged Foot.

“Winged Foot, sorry yeah, I’m not a big golfer,” Oats said. “He lives up there on Winged Foot. He was telling me I’ll have to come by.”

Winged Foot Golf Club hosted the first U.S. Open in 1929 and the 1997 PGA Championship.

“Apparently, those that are really into golf, that’s a big-time spot,” Oats said. “So maybe, I’ll take him up on it and get up there once.”

Oats explained that he has known Rick Pitino’s son Richard Pitino for several years. Richard Pitino recently became the New Mexico men’s basketball head coach after being the Minnesota head coach from 2013-21.

The connection to Richard Pitino is how Oats said he got the elder Pitino’s phone number.

Oats and the Alabama men’s basketball team are scheduled to continue their season against UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Sunday, March 28.

No. 2 seed Alabama comes into the matchup 26-6 overall. On Monday, Alabama beat Maryland 96-77 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 11-seeded UCLA enters the game 20-9 overall. UCLA beat Abilene Christian 67-47 in the NCAA Tournament second round on Monday.

Entering Sunday, UCLA leads the all-time series 3-2 vs. Alabama.

Erik Hall is the lead digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik.