Iona’s Rick Pitino Aims To Surprise In NCAA Tourney Return

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Rick Pitino made his first Final Four back in 1987, when he was coaching Providence and current Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan was the star point guard.

Several stops and multiple controversies later, Pitino is back in the NCAA Tournament as coach of Iona, which hails from New Rochelle, N.Y. The Gaels won the MAAC tourney to gain an automatic bid. They picked up a 15 seed in the East Region and will face second-seeded Alabama in the first round.

Needless to say, Pitino is preaching the madness of March — and the regular upsets in the NCAA Tourney — as he leads his new team into the Big Dance.

“Anybody can win any game, it’s not in the NBA where you have playoffs and the best teams win it,” he told the New York Post. “It’s that one game. And if you come up with a game plan that maybe shocks somebody, you could get lucky.”

Iona finished 12-5, but has won six straight entering the tournament. Much of their season was interrupted by COVID-19 concerns, which Pitino suggested was among the reasons for their slow start.

“The one thing about us, we missed 60 days of practice,” he told the Post. “We’re probably in late-December in terms of what we wanted to put in and so on. So the one thing that we had to count on was inspiration, motivation.”

Today, Pitino is providing that for another college squad yet again.

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Written by Sam Amico

Sam Amico spent 15 years covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports and, along with a few other spots, and currently runs his own basketball website on the side,

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