Rick Pitino is returning to Big East as new head coach at St. John’s

Rick Pitino is back in the Big East Conference.

St. John’s hired the Hall of Fame coach Monday to boost a storied program that’s been mired in mediocrity for much of this century.

The school announced the move on Twitter, and Pitino is expected to be formally introduced during a news conference Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Following a successful run at nearby mid-major Iona, the 70-year-old Pitino was plucked away to replace Mike Anderson, who was fired on March 10 after four seasons in charge of the Red Storm without making the NCAA Tournament.

Leading up to Iona’s NCAA Tournament game, Pitino said he hoped he can coach for 12 more years.

“But I’ll take six or seven,” he said.

ESPN reported on Monday that Pitino had agreed to a six-year contract. 

Pitino posted tweets thanking Iona administrators and “all those people who touched our lives.”

“To my players, the last three years. All I can say is you know how much I love you,” he tweeted. “Follow up, I’m not sad it ended. I’m so grateful it happened.”

Pitino’s Gaels concluded their season with an 87-63 loss to UConn on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday, FOX Sports’ John Fanta reported that St. John’s intended to hire Pitino and that the coach was interested in the position.

Pitino, 70, is the only coach in college basketball history to lead three programs — Providence, Kentucky and Louisville — to the Final Four, and has won 711 games in his coaching career. He won national championship in 1996 (Kentucky) and 2013 (Louisville, which was later vacated).

St. John’s university president Brian Shanley and athletic director Mike Cragg viewed their coaching search as an opportunity to turn the Red Storm back into a relevant force in college basketball, sources told Fanta. The program missed four straight NCAA Tournaments under Mike Anderson and has not won a game in the big dance in 23 years.

For Pitino, who lives at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., the prospect of coaching St. John’s means he does not have to move, with the course being roughly 23 miles from the St. John’s University campus.

The move back to Queens gives him the opportunity to step back into the Big East Conference, where he was from 1985-87 while at Providence, then from 2005-13 while at Louisville.

For a St. John’s program that has spent several years off the national map in college basketball, this move to acquire Pitino, who’s no longer tied down to NCAA investigation or threat of sanctions, signals a clear desire to win by the Red Storm and to return to relevance in New York City.

St. John’s has the ninth-most wins among Division I teams, with 90 winning seasons in its 116-year basketball history.

The school has reached two Final Fours (1952, 1985) and won the NIT a record six times — including back-to-back crowns in the 1940s when that event was still often considered the country’s premier postseason tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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