Syracuse Basketball: Rick Pitino will be formidable recruiting foe for ‘Cuse

Syracuse basketball, Rick Pitino (Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, Rick Pitino (Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Former Syracuse basketball assistant coach Rick Pitino, a New York City native and two-time national champion, is back in the big time.

Pitino, who has taken three different college squads to the Final Four and reached the national semifinals on seven occasions, was recently introduced as the new head coach of Big East Conference member and former long-time ‘Cuse rival St. John’s.

In Queens, N.Y., Pitino will replace Mike Anderson as the Red Storm’s head coach. During the 2022-23 season, St. John’s went 18-15 overall, including a win over the Orange in the non-conference slate.

For the past three years, Rick Pitino has served as the head coach of Iona, taking that team to the NCAA Tournament twice. Most recently, during the 2023 Big Dance, the No. 13 seed Iona (27-8) fell in the round of 64 to No. 4 seed Connecticut, 87-63.

During his 35 years as a college head coach, the 70-year-old Pitino has led a number of programs, including Big East squad Providence, Kentucky and Louisville. He took Providence to the Final Four in 1987 and won national titles with Kentucky and Louisville in 1996 and 2013, respectively.

Rick Pitino will undeniably be a tough recruiting foe for Syracuse basketball coaches.

Pitino was an assistant under former long-time Orange head coach Jim Boeheim for two seasons in the late 1970s. He has deep roots in the Big East as well as more recently, with Louisville, in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Sure, St. John’s and the Orange are in different conferences these days. They don’t have the same rivalry that they had in the heyday of the Big East in the 1980s.

That being said, I’m sure that Rick Pitino and his assistants at St. John’s will be recruiting in New York City, throughout New York state, in the Northeast and beyond.

So given Pitino’s track record as a recruiter, he will prove a formidable recruiting opponent for new ‘Cuse head coach Adrian Autry and his staff.

This is only one example, but top scout Andrew Slater of Cerebro Sports tweeted on Wednesday that Pitino was planning to visit 2024 five-star point guard Boogie Fland, a standout junior at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y., who was offered a scholarship by the Orange back in January.

Autry and his assistants recently watched Fland, who has close to 30 offers, as he balled out in leading Archbishop Stepinac to the New York Catholic High School Athletic Association (“CHSAA”) “AA” intersectional (city) championship.

I’ll certainly be curious to see, in the near future, which high-school prospects and college players in the NCAA’s transfer portal end up being targeted by Rick Pitino in his new gig at St. John’s.

Syracuse basketball and the Red Storm may not be battling on the court much these days, but they absolutely will be going toe to toe on the recruiting trail with Pitino at the helm in Queens.

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