Pitino Chronicles, Episode 1: A coaching legend returns to Madison Square Garden

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By Samantha Rose

We are one week into the college basketball season, and this year at FOX Sports, we’re bringing an exclusive interview series to the hardwood with one of the all-time coaching greats in the sport’s history: St.John’s head coach Rick Pitino. 

“The Pitino Chronicles,” a five-part series with the 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and the first coach in college basketball history to take three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville) to a Final Four, will highlight Pitino’s 48-year coaching journey, which includes taking the St. John’s job, his history with the Big East and New York City basketball, the state of the NCAA and much more.

In Episode 1 of the series, we discussed how he views the opportunity at St. John’s, how he coaches his players, and his upcoming return to Madison Square Garden, where the Red Storm host Michigan at 6:30 p.m. ET Monday night on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.

Pitino – a Long Island native – takes the opportunity to resurrect the Red Storm program back to the days of Lou Carnesecca’s powerhouse in the 1980s personally and with one goal in mind: “winning a national championship.” 

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“Without winning, you’re not going to have a large social media following. You’re not going to have people coming to Madison Square Garden. You have to win,” Pitino said. “When they say, ‘What comes first: the cart or the horse?’ Let’s make it clear: winning comes first.” 

After opening up about a unique coaching tactic he uses with his players to create accountability on his team, Pitino talked about the pageantry of walking into Madison Square Garden again, a place he called home from 1983-85 as an assistant with the New York Knicks and then as the organization’s head coach from 1987-89, and what he expects from his team against the Wolverines in the Gavitt Tipoff Games opener Monday night.

[2023 Gavitt Tipoff Games: 5 players to watch as Big Ten, Big East square off]

“I’m sure there will be a lot of things racing through my mind,” Pitino said. “Seeing Bernard King run down that floor, post up on that left block and score 80% of the time on the low block, or with Patrick Ewing at The Garden as well. There are so many Big East memories with Providence and Louisville, and so many head coaching memories with the Knicks like coaching Mark Jackson … a great St. John’s alum. And now, it’s time for new things on the horizon, new memories to build. 

“We have a 14 new-member basketball team. They’re not great, nor should they be great this time of year. What we’re trying to do is build into March. When we enter Madison Square Garden to play against Michigan, we have to do it on heart.” 

While this is just the beginning of a new journey for Pitino, he was willing to go down the pathway of talking through his legacy and what he wants to accomplish when it’s all said and done in what he calls his final stop of his career at St. John’s. 

“I want to get back to the days of when you play a home game at The Garden, it’s dominated with 80% of people from St. John’s, and not the other school,” Pitino said. “And I want the fans who are paying a high dollar to come to Madison Square Garden, that they’re leaving and wearing a smile on their face saying, ‘I’m proud of St. John’s.’

“I want to win a national championship. It hasn’t been done at St. John’s in modern times, and I’d love to see that.”

Watch Episode 1 of the “Pitino Chronicles” below and follow along at FOXSports.com and on social media, @CBBonFOX, for details on the upcoming release of Episode 2 of the five-part series.

Pitino Chronicles: Rick Pitino’s master plan for St. John’s

Pitino Chronicles: Rick Pitino’s master plan for St. John’s

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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