Rick Pitino is back in college basketball after scandal forced him out; Twitter reacts to his returnSporting News — firstname.lastname@example.org (Sporting News)
It has been almost three years since Rick Pitino was fired from Louisville after he was implicated in a federal investigation involving bribes to recruits. The Hall of Fame college basketball coach has spent the past two years in Greece with Panathinaikos and even won the Greek Cup last year. But now Slick Rick is back in college hoops, returning to coach Iona.
Pitino's credentials speak for themselves. As a college head coach, his teams have compiled a 770-271 record (.740 winning percentage). He has coached in seven Final Fours (three with Kentucky, three with Louisville, one with Providence) and won two NCAA championships — one with Kentucky in 1996, one with Louisville in 2013.
The NCAA later vacated that Lousiville title, though, and it still hasn't ruled on his involvement in the pay-for-play scandal at the university, which makes him somewhat of a risky hire.
DeCOURCY: Pitino willing to work way off Broadway
Here's what the Twitterverse had to say about Pitino's return to college basketball:
ESPN's Dick Vitale didn't hesitate to call the hire a slam dunk, both for Iona and the college basketball landscape. The Gaels have been a successful program of late, going 211-125 (.628) over the past 10 seasons with six NCAA Tournament appearances under Tim Cluess, who stepped down Friday because of health concerns. Vitale thinks they could soar to even higher heights under Pitino.
Basketball analyst Jeff Goodman pointed out that Iona is an Adidas school, which could be a complicating factor regarding the company's involvement in the pay-for-play scandal that got Pitino fired.
Goodman also pointed out that Pitino was suspended for the first five ACC games of the 2017-18 season for a different scandal than the one that forced him out. How will that affect the beginning of his tenure at Iona?
Not everyone is happy about the hire, it seems. Iona guard Isaiah Washington apparently tweeted this when news started circulating that the school might hire Pitino. Washington transferred to Iona from Minnesota, where he played for Pitino's son, Richard. Washington averaged 11.4 points per game this year in his first season at Iona.
Washington later deleted the tweet and followed it up with a welcome to his new head coach.
CBS Sports Radio host John Kincade was disappointed, to say the least, saying the acceptance of Pitino's past transgressions paints a bad picture for college basketball.
Author Jeff Pearlman pointed out the hypocrisy of Iona College, a private Catholic institution, hiring someone with Pitino's track record.
Whether fans are for or against Pitino's return to college basketball, his return certainly has given them something to finally talk about in the wake of college hoops being canceled because of the coronavirus.