Rick Pitino says he would revitalize St. John's basketball, but wants an apology first

Rick Pitino says he could revitalize St. John’s basketball.

Pitino has not coached at the college level since his tenure at Louisville went up in flames amid an array of scandals. Now coaching in Greece, Pitino told New York-based hoops reporter Adam Zagoria he would bring St John’s to an “elite” level.

“I would bring St. John’s to the elite level not seen since Louie [Carnesecca] roamed the sidelines,” Pitino told Zagoria on Tuesday morning.

The head-coaching position at St. John’s is currently held by SJU legend Chris Mullin, but that’s expected to change soon. Multiple outlets reported Monday night that Mullin is inching toward a resignation from his alma mater after four seasons.

Could Pitino be a fit? It makes sense in a lot of ways. You can’t deny the on-court success Pitino has had throughout his career. Plus, he’s from Long Island. But his off-court, um, issues have made him too toxic for other openings across the country.

Beyond the infamous on-campus escort scandal at Louisville, Pitino’s program was a big part of the FBI’s investigation into the recruitment of Brian Bowen, who signed with UL. Adidas officials and prospective sports agent Christian Dawkins were part of a scheme to funnel $100,000 to Bowen’s father to get the younger Bowen to play for Louisville.

Pitino, who claims the whole thing happened behind his back, was named in a complaint in the Southern District of New York, the court prosecuting the FBI case into corruption in college hoops. And before Pitino would even consider St. John’s (and there’s no reason to believe SJU is interested, by the way), he wants an apology.

For real.

“Before that could ever happen, the Southern District of New York would have to apologize for ruining an innocent man’s reputation by putting his name in a complaint. So good luck to my hometown University because that’s not happening,” Pitino told Zagoria.

Panathinaikos coach Rick Pitino looks on during a Euroleague basketball match between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos in Piraeus near Athens, on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Rick Pitino is now the head coach of Panathinaikos, a Greek team in the Euroleague. (AP)

Who could St. John’s hire?

We can pretty much cross Pitino off the list, so where will St. John’s turn after parting ways with one of its most accomplished alums?

Mullin, a New York City native who starred for the Red Storm during the heyday of the Big East, inherited a tough situation. SJU hoped Mullin could recharge a struggling program despite his lack of experience as a coach.

Mullin had a losing record in his first three seasons before reaching the NCAA tournament — a loss to Arizona State in the First Four — this year. Overall in four seasons, Mullin has a 59-73 record with just a 20-52 mark in Big East play. It has been a slow progression, but one that has evidently not been satisfactory to new athletic director Mike Cragg.

Cragg, who came to SJU from Duke in September, has reportedly set his sights on another New York-area native: Bobby Hurley.

Hurley, a star point guard at Duke in the early 90s, just wrapped up his fourth season at Arizona State. Hurley is the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., who won 26 state titles at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.

Could St. John’s lure the younger Hurley back to the East Coast? We’ll have to wait and see.

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