Rick Pitino Makes History as Iona Advances to NCAA Tournament by Winning MAAC

Iona head coach Rick Pitino yells to his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Fairfield during the finals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Iona men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino became just the third coach in NCAA Division I men’s hoops history to take five different programs to the NCAA tournament when the Gaels defeated Fairfield 60-51 to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship on Saturday.

Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith were the first two coaches to earn that distinction, per Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio.

Pitino also led Boston University, Providence, Kentucky and Louisville to the NCAA tournament. Rick Bozich of WDRB.com detailed the three coaches’ achievements.

The 68-year-old got the job done in his first year running the Iona program. The Gaels entered the conference tournament as the No. 9 seed but defeated Quinnipiac, Siena, Niagara and Fairfield en route to the crown.

Pitino led Kentucky and Louisville to national titles and has made five other Final Four appearances during his career.

Iona will wait to hear its name called when the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed beginning at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. CBS will air the selection show.

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