Pitino, who has taken four different programs to the NCAA tournament and coached two national championship teams, takes over for Tim Cluess, who stepped down as head coach after ten years due to health concerns.
"Rick is a Hall of Fame coach who has won at the highest levels and he is committed to leading our student-athletes and our program to national prominence,” said athletics director Matthew Glovaski. “He brings passion and energy and shares our desire to build a winning program that will make our community proud."
Pitino and his family, including his wife Joanne, his children and grandchildren are excited to join the Iona community.
"My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College," Pitino said. "At Iona, I will work with the same passion, hunger and drive that I’ve had for over forty years."
During Pitino’s 32 seasons as a collegiate head coach, he has a 770-271 overall record and a 54-19 record in the NCAA Tournament, and became the first coach to take three different schools to the NCAA Final Four;
Pitino has served as head coach of the University of Louisville, where he won the 2013 NCAA Championship, University of Kentucky, where he won the 1996 NCAA Championship, Providence College, Boston University and Hawaii.
But he doesn’t come with out some baggage. Pitino was fired from Louisville in 2017 over a scandal in which exotic dancers were sent to perform for recruits. Although after a subsequent lawsuit, the nature of his release was changed to “resignation.”
Pitino claims he had no knowledge of the scheme and blamed an assistant. However, he could still face a suspension when the NCAA finally completes its investigation.
After 10 years at Iona College, Cluess will serve as an advisor to the basketball program moving forward.
"I look forward to my new role and assisting the college in every way I can going forward," Cluess said. “I want to thank Gael Nation, including every student-athlete I had the honor to coach, for all their ever-present and vocal support.”
Cluess won five MAAC tournament championships and four regular-season titles during his nine years on the sidelines. His MAAC tournament win total is the most all-time in league history, and his regular season win total ranks second.
In 2018-19, Iona earned its fourth-straight MAAC championship, becoming the first program in the history of the league to four-peat. Iona's five conference titles in eight years was only exceeded by New Mexico State and Gonzaga.
Only 13 of the 351 Division I schools appeared in four straight NCAA tournaments from 2016-2019. Gonzaga and Iona were the lone representatives in that group from a mid-major conference.
Cluess was named the 2019 MAAC Coach of the Year.