New Rochelle, NY – By the time Rick Pitino arrived in town, the coronavirus was already there.
When Iona hired a Hall of Fame coach on March 14, last year, she didn’t celebrate the new biggest man on campus. A more notable arrival on the outskirts of New York City that week came when Governor Andrew Cuomo closed the school and set up a “containment zone” to ban large gatherings within a mile radius of the synagogue. It was the National Guard.Down the street that was the center of the earliest outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States
Almost a year later, the virus did not completely let go of Pitino’s program.
Gaels forced to stop four times this season due to viral problems (including a 51-day break that set them aside longer than any team in the country) have a good ending to the frustrating season starting on Tuesday. Get out of their latest pause in the hope of putting together a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
“It didn’t work because I missed two months of practice and matches. I’m trying to get the most out of it in a very difficult time,” said Pitino. “We’re probably hit harder than any program in the country. That said, I’m very proud of our people because they’re hanging there. They Was basically put in jail four times for 14 days. “
It’s the best time of the year for college basketball, but Pitino didn’t want this march madness. He advocated postponing the season from early November to February, and the NCAA tournament was held in May, when enough people were vaccinated to have a safe and realistic season. It was.
It may have given him a belief in post-season success, as he enjoyed in Kentucky and Louisville. Now, forget to play as his team did in SEC and Big East tournaments. He doesn’t even believe that the Gaels can play as they did when they last came to court on February 20th.
“Honestly, I don’t. I don’t believe it, but we’re going to get the most out of it,” Pitino said.
When Iona hired Pitino, he made a good run under Tim Cruz, who made six NCAA tournament appearances and won five MAAC tournament titles in nine seasons before resigning for health reasons. It’s just around the corner. The Gaelics are even better under the first coach to win national titles in two schools (Louisville, Kentucky) and the first coach to lead three schools (Providence) to the final four. I wanted to be.
And Pitino hoped this job would help repair the reputation that was damaged when Louisville fired him in 2017 while being investigated as part of a federal corruption investigation.
But this season it never got off to a good start.
The 11-game unconference schedule, including a trip to the Bahamas, has been completely abolished after the NCAA has decided that the season will not start until November 25th. Iona has set up new slate for six non-conference games, four of which have been cancelled. After the first suspension of activities in November.
Iona was canceled twice on the day of the match in December, the latter was canceled on December 29, a positive test was done in the program later that night, and an additional two weeks of rest was required. ..
Another positive test caused a third pause the night before the Gaels were set to return to action in mid-January. Meanwhile, some players who tested positive began to show symptoms, unlike before.
Pitino herself was infected with the virus after her first vaccination and was unable to escape her bad luck. Instead of risking his wife to get sick, he quarantined in a small campus apartment, and when Iona finally played the match on February 12, it was a 51-day break from the last match on December 23. I came later.
The Gaels participated in five games and ended with an impressive sweep from MAAC co-champion Monmouth. Then we announced another positive test that would prevent us from playing again until the conference tournament.
They tried to schedule the match, but Pitino said Marist naturally declined because he had to wear a mask to play. As a result, the Gaels finished 8-5, 6-3 in the league and won the 9th seed.
If the NCAA adopted Pitino’s May Madness concept, the situation was probably different.
“In the end, I think my rating was probably correct, but because of my contractual obligations, I wouldn’t blame anyone for trying to (play),” Pitino said of the entire tournament in Indianapolis. I praised the plan to hold it. The safest environment with traditional schedules.
“So it’s not right or wrong. It’s a suggestion I had, and I certainly didn’t think the NCAA would listen to my suggestion, so I’ll move on.”
However, Pitino will not advance to the NCAA tournament unless the Gaels win four games in Atlantic City, NJ. It’s a tough question for any team, not to mention the ones who have just returned to practice this week and aren’t in the best possible condition. .. He didn’t intend to push the player hard, knowing the risk of injury after a long period of inactivity.
Although it feels bad for sent-off players like MAAC’s scoring leader Isaia Ross, who didn’t get much senior season, he wasn’t too worried about what the team lost.
“I’m more worried about the deaths of the 510,000 people we had,” Pitino said. “My heart is directed towards those people more than our team is suffering from a pause.
“I hope this is something we never have to experience again in our lifetime. So we make the most of it. When it comes to basketball, we’ll get over it and next year will be normal I hope it will be the basketball season. “
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March Madness?The entire first season at Pitino’s Iona Madning
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