Rick Pitino left the door ajar.
The Hall of Famer has repeatedly said Iona College will be the last stop in his storied career, but when asked by The Post this week, he took a slightly different stance.
“My goal is to finish my career at Iona. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy being an NBA coach again,” said 69-year-old Pitino from his new office at New Rochelle School. “I can not say” [I won’t coach at another college]because you’ll look like a liar if you ever do. My total motive is to stay here. I’m a New Yorker. I want to end my career in New York. I live in a place where I want to live. But you never know.”
The biggest factor, Pitino said, is that the school’s leadership remains in place and shares the same aspirations he has for the program. Since Pitino arrived, the administration has walked the walk. Iona, the heavy MAAC favorite with an impressive record of 17-3 en route to Sunday’s game against St. Peter’s, has redecorated the basketball offices, weight room and locker room for both the men’s and women’s teams and a gas station for players. added, which offers unlimited food.
“As long as they have the same goals as me, I have no reason to leave,” said Pitino, who wants to coach for up to seven more years. “[They want] to make it better and better.”
Pitino said that after reaching the NCAA tournament last March in his first season with Iona, a few “high-powered schools” contacted him, but he was not interested. Those schools were Indiana and UNLV, according to sources. The Maryland track recently opened, after the school parted ways with Mark Turgeon in early December, and there is speculation that the Big Ten school will long watch Pitino, who is grossly underpaid at less than $1 million a season. He has a $5 million buyout and has three years left on his contract after that, sources said.
Asked if he would be interested in Maryland, Pitino said he is “full of boredom” staying in Iona next year. He eventually passed the subject on to his son Richard, who now coaches in New Mexico.
“If he turns that program around, in three years he’s going to have to say, ‘Okay, why should I leave? I go up a ladder to a better school, a better conference, I make more money. I live closer to my family,” said Pitino. “The motive for me is different. Money doesn’t matter at all. The level doesn’t matter. I’ve been the Knicks, Celtics coach, Kentucky, Louisville coach. There must be something.”
When it was suggested that he wants to win big again and coach in a Final Four, Pitino smiled as if he were facing a challenge.
“I think we can do it here,” he said. “John Calipari and I are the only coaches to have led three different schools to a Final Four. I’d like to have him on my resume.”