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Rick Pitino is the head basketball coach at a prominent high-major school for the first time since his ousting at Louisville in 2017. And with the 70-year-old’s arrival at St. John’s comes the return of Mike Repole.
Who is Mike Repole? He may be the most important person involved with the Red Storm basketball program that isn’t the head coach.
Repole is an entrepreneur and businessman with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion. The 54-year-old graduated from St. John’s in 1991 and holds an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater.
Repole most famously founded Vitaminwater and Body Armor, which he later sold separately to the Coca Cola company. His current venture is as the owner of Repole Stables, which produced 2022 Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal and Kentucky Derby day betting favorite Forte.
But why does this matter for Pitino and the Red Storm?
He previously had a falling out with St. John’s in 2019, called the school’s environment as “toxic” and called for the then-President and Vice President to step down. Repole also said that he needed to “pay $3-4 million” and hire a “coach that’s going to win.”
The year is now 2023 and the Red Storm hired Pitino, a coach who can win. So Repole is back in.
To me, St. John’s was getting incredibly close to being irrelevant and I think if they would’ve stayed with the current coach, it was just basically a matter of time, especially with Georgetown and other schools making such big moves. And the Rick Pitino move was like a Hail Mary that basically went from game over, irrelevant to NCAA Tournament, maybe Final Four.— Mike Repole, via Forbes
With Name, Image and Likeness funds having a direct impact on success in college basketball, having a billionaire in your corner is a very big deal. Pitino and Repole met back in March in Boca Raton, Fla. and the latter promised to pony up big money.
I’ve already made a commitment for basketball through the school and Rick is well aware of that.— Mike Repole, via Forbes
Repole has already played a big role in helping Pitino to add high-profile transfers through the portal since his hiring. Kansas forward Zuby Ejiofor committed to St. John’s on Monday to round out the 10-transfer class for 2023, but neither the billionaire booster nor the head coach plan to slow down any time soon.