Rick Pitino reportedly says St. John's-Kentucky home-and-home set to begin in 2025

Rick Pitino's highly anticipated return to Rupp Arena is officially in the works, and close to being finalized.

The former Kentucky basketball coach confirmed to's college basketball insider Adam Zagoria on Monday night that a home-and-home series between Pitino's St. John's Redstorm and the Wildcats is happening, and will begin in the 2025-26 college basketball season.

“For our 30th anniversary next year (of Kentucky's 1996 National Championship team) we will go to Rupp (Arena) and they will return to MSG the following year (2026-27),” Pitino told Zagoria via text on Monday.

REQUIRED READING: Kentucky basketball schedule 2024-25: SEC slate for Mark Pope's 1st year in Lexington set

Zagoria noted that while Pitino and his former captain of that 1996 National Championship team turned Kentucky coach Mark Pope, the Hall of Fame coach said contracts for the home-and-home series have not been signed yet.

“I’m dying for him to come back to this building so I can beat him,” Pope recently told CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein on his "College Hoops Today" podcast. “Like, I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying to try and beat Coach, man. It’s gonna happen, we’ve just got to work through all those little pieces that get complicated. I just think so much about the basketball world would be right with Coach having at least one more chance to walk back into this building and let Big Blue Nation show how grateful they are for him and how much they love him.

"... What I really want is, I really want Coach to walk back into Rupp Arena because if there’s anything I’ve learned in the three weeks I’ve been here, could there be a fanbase that loves a coach more than Big Blue Nation loves Coach (Pitino)?”

The news of a St. John's-Kentucky home-and-home, which will surely be one of college basketball's marquee non-conference matchups in both 2025 and 2026, was first brought up by Pope during his introductory news conference when he said "Anybody down for a game with St. John's?"

Shortly after that, Pitino went on X, formerly known as Twitter, accepting Pope's invitation. The original plan for the home-and-home, per Pitino's tweet on April 15, was for the home-and-home series to start this season in Lexington, before heading to Madison Square Garden next season. However, with the big anniversary of the Wildcats national title next season, one that Pitino and Pope were architects of, it is now looks to be delayed a year.

"Wow, just saw clips from our Captain's press conference. Not shocked, but pleasantly surprised. Would expect nothing less from @CoachMarkPope. Also, @StJohnsBBall accepts, this year at UK, next year at the Mecca! Looking forward to saying goodbye to @KentuckyMBB," Pitino wrote last month.

Pitino went 219-50 overall in eight seasons at Kentucky, leading the program to six NCAA Tournaments, five SEC Tournament titles, three Final Fours and that national championship title in 1996.

While coaching against his former player will surely make for some entertaining basketball, Pitino's return to Lexington and Rupp won't be his first time since leaving the Wildcats for the Boston Celtics after the 1996 season. In eight trips back to Rupp Arena during his tenure at Louisville, Pitino went 2-6 overall against Kentucky.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Rick Pitino vs Mark Pope set for 2025-26 season at Rupp Arena