After being hired as the next head coach at Iona, Rick Pitino is doing his part to get back in the national spotlight, build his image, and mend some fences.
More specifically, it appears he’s trying to earn brownie points with the Big Blue Nation.
Right after his hiring became official, the former Louisville and Kentucky head coach jumped on The Dan Patrick Show to say he was interested in scheduling a game with John Calipari and the Wildcats in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
“I may schedule, if John — I spoke to Cal, he was nice enough to call me,” Pitino said. “I would love to schedule Kentucky in the Garden in the Jimmy V Classic. I think that would be a great draw and that would be exciting to see and I hope John would entertain that.”
As an added bonus, also made it clear he is not interested in playing Louisville anytime soon.
“No,” he said. “How quick was that answer?”
In an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post published this afternoon, Pitino continued his praise of Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program.
When asked how Calipari compared to legendary coach and friend Larry Brown, the new Iona coach said both had a tendency to “move different places,” but said the former is now a “lifer” at Kentucky.
“Well, they’re close friends, and they’re both brilliant coaches,” he said. “They both have had a tendency to move to different places, although John will be a lifer at Kentucky. They both grew up loving the game, have great passion for the game.”
With various reports and rumors suggesting Calipari would be interested in taking the New York Knicks coaching job if offered, Pitino noted that the Kentucky head coach is happy where he is, as he should be.
Why? Calipari has “the best job in all of basketball.”
“I really don’t [think he will leave],” Pitino said of the UK head coach. “I think when you coach at Kentucky, you have the premier job in college basketball — in terms of he can recruit any player he wants, he has unbelievable facilities, he’s gonna win his 30 games every year, and he’s got the best job in all of basketball.”
In fact, Pitino thinks Calipari is “smarter than [him]” in that regard.
“So I’m not sure why he would ever want to have a job that’s not the best job in all of basketball,” the former Kentucky coach and current Iona coach said. “He’s smarter than me when it comes to that.”