Rick Pitino Hired to Become Next Head Coach of the Iona Gaels

Rick Pitino
Panathinaikos head coach Rick Pitino looks up at the Jumbotron during a EuroLeague game against Milan. | Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Several mid-major college basketball programs have parted ways with their head coaches over the last 72 hours, potentially leaving the door open for Rick Pitino to make his return to the sport.

Pitino was the head coach at University of Louisville from 2001-2017 before a colossal scandal abruptly forced him out of the job. The 67-year-old was considered blacklisted by the NCAA and has since coached in Greece for Panathinaikos of the EuroLeague, but rumors began to swirl this week that Pitino would soon be back in college basketball.

And now he's the head coach of the Iona Gaels. It's official.

Iona head coach Tim Cluess stepped down Friday to focus on his health after being sidelined for the entirety of the 2019-2020 season. Cluess had spent nine seasons with the Gaels and lead them to six NCAA Tournament appearances.

As soon as Iona was in need of a new head coach, Pitino's name had the strongest ties to the opening. Pitino indicated they came to an agreement earlier this afternoon, and here we are.

Pitino's three-year hiatus from college basketball is officially over. Iona's program isn't of the same stature of Louisville's, but he's got to start over again somewhere. If Pitino can bring the Gaels back to the NCAA Tournament, maybe he'll have the chance to lead a Power-5 blueblood to round out his coaching career.