When Syracuse’s 2021-22 season started going downhill, people all over the country started going over the options to replace Jim Boeheim. The logical names, Adrian Autry (who just scored a big recruit), and Gerry McNamara came up. Former coach-in-waiting Mike Hopkins came up. But a surprise outside candidate was making waves.
Rick Pitino, at age 69, is seriously being discussed by media members as a serious candidate to eventually replace Boeheim. While Pitino did serve as a Syracuse assistant from 1976-78, he is nowhere close to being part of the “Syracuse family” as those other three guys.
There is no question that Pitino is a phenomenal college basketball coach. Bringing Providence back to the Final Four. Two national championships with two different schools. But, everyone knows what happened at the end of his Louisville tenure. His exile to Greece, and now rebuilding mid-major Iona (who did give Alabama a run as a 15-seed in 2021).
There are a lot of great things Pitino would bring to Central New York. He’s an excellent recruiter. The talent on his Kentucky and Louisville teams was vast, and a huge reason they competed for national titles year in and year out.
His NBA tenures did not go great in New York and Boston, but he can coach college-aged players. 7 Final Fours (2 more than Boeheim), 8 combined SEC and Big East Tournament Championships, and many more accolades make up Pitino’s resume. But, there are multiple clear reasons he should not be Syracuse’s next head coach.
First, he turns 70 years old in September. There is nothing wrong with an older coach, but that just means you’re going to have to replace him sooner rather than later. It puts the pressure to win now, and that pressure will be insane.
Second, the stigma that comes with the current version of Rick Pitino is not a good look for the university. The end of his Louisville tenure combined with the allegations that happened make for a rough look for SU to just look away from those issues.
Third, this would completely disregard everything John Wildhack has done as Athletic Director when it comes to hiring coaches. Last offseason, he hired two lacrosse coaches, both arguably the greatest player in the history of their respective programs.
Then just last week, he hired Felisha Legette-Jack to lead the women’s basketball program, who just last year became the first woman to have her number retired in the Carrier Dome. Wildhack’s strategy is clear.
This is not to say Pitino would not be successful at Syracuse, he just does not fit the criteria, and would not be a big enough upgrade over Autry, McNamara, or others to justify hiring someone from out of the family.
There are less than five viable candidates for this job, and Pitino may be the best head coach of the bunch, but it would go against WIldhack’s philosophy to bring him in and would be a big slap in the face to the guys who have done their time on the bench next to Boeheim.