After weeks of speculation, St. John’s officially hired Rick Pitino as its new head coach last week, which UConn head coach Dan Hurley sees as a plus for the Big East Conference.
Pitino takes over for Mike Anderson, who was fired last month following a four-season stint as the Red Storm’s head coach. Anderson guided St. John’s to an 18-15 record this season, and overall, he failed to lead the program to a single NCAA tournament appearance.
Pitino, who signed off on a six-year deal with St. John’s, is coming off of a three-year run as the head coach of the Iona Gaels. He led Iona to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, which included a round of 64 defeat to Hurley’s UConn squad last month.
In the big picture, Hurley believes that Pitino’s return to the Big East is “great” for the conference.
“I would say not just St. John’s, but having a strong Georgetown and a strong St. John’s means a lot, it’s great for the league,” Hurley said during a press conference on Friday ahead of the Final Four. “Those games have been like at best Quad 2 games and at worst Quad 3 and 4 games, and programs of that stature, in terms of the brand, it’s important for overall strength of the league.
“I think it will make the games more exciting, more eyeballs on it. Viewership will go up. Excitement for the games will go up. I don’t think the league gets as much credit as it probably should get as being one of the top basketball leagues in the country, top two or three every single year. But a strong Georgetown and strong St. John’s will help with that.”
The Red Storm’s last appearance in the NCAA tournament round of 64 came back in the 2014-2015 campaign. Hurley is much confident that Pitino can soon lead St. John’s back to the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think it’s going to take him long to have them potentially back in this tournament, especially with how quickly you can do things now with the portal,” Hurley said.
For Hurley, he currently has his sights set on UConn’s upcoming Final Four matchup against Miami.
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