Rick Pitino leads Iona to NCAA tournament in first season back


Rick Pitino showed the basketball world once again that he still has plenty left in the tank by leading No.9 seed Iona to March Madness.

68 year-old Rick Pitino is going dancing once again after leading his fifth program to the NCAA tournament.

Pitino’s Iona Gaels entered the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) postseason tournament as the No.9 seed with a record of just 8-5 after his program had encountered numerous pauses throughout the season due to faulty PCR testing.

Iona opened the MAAC tournament by running over Quinnipiac 72-48 followed by an upset over No.1 Siena (the defending conference champs) 55-52 in the quarterfinals.

Iona then beat No.5 seed Niagara 70-64 in the semi-final followed by todays win in the final over No.7 seed Fairfield 60-51.

On the floor, Iona features the oldest back court in college basketball with a pair of 24 year-old guards leading the way for the Gaels.

Isaiah Ross is a (very) senior guard from Davenport, IA who led the MAAC in scoring this season with 18.8 points per game and was named first team All-MAAC. He played his first two seasons at UMKC before transferring to Iona in 2018.

Asante Gist is the other Iona senior guard. He previously played at Eastern Kentucky before transferring to Iona. Gist averaged 12.9 points per game this season for the Gaels.

The also have MAAC Freshman of the Year Nelly Junior Joseph.

Pitino of course had been unceremoniously dismissed from Louisville back in 2017 and was out of college basketball for three seasons before being hired by Iona prior to the start of this season. In the meantime, Pitino coached in Greece helping Panathinaikos to back to back titles in 2019 and 2020.

The guy just wins everywhere he goes.

Pitino has won two NCAA championships. This first in 1996 with Kentucky and the second with Louisville in 2013 as well as taking his teams to seven Final Four appearances.

Pitino is a year or two away from making a deep run in the NCAA tournament with Iona.

However, with Pitino and his very experienced guards the Gaels and going to be a serious problem for whatever high seed they are matched up against in the NCAA tournament.

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Chris McKee is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association and has done play-by-play for Fox Sports, Sky Sports, One Soccer, CBC Sports and TSN radio calling professional, college and high school basketball, volleyball and soccer. You can see him in the CBC TV series "Anyone's Game" as the voice of Orangeville Prep. He also works as a traffic reporter in Toronto for TSN 1050, 97.7 HTZ FM, Jazz FM 91, 610 CKTB, Funny 820, Bounce 102.9, Move 105.7, Newstalk 1010 and more. Host of 'This Week in Golf' on Newstalk Sauga 960 & studio host for LIV Golf. Prior to working in sports, McKee was an award winning music agent and concert promoter for 20 years having produced concerts for the likes of Rihanna, The Black Eyed Peas, Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones and many more. Author of the book "Life on the road with the Wu-Tang Clan."