|Rick Pitino penned this letter to the fans promising a return to glory, and it appeared in Friday's New York Post. @StJohnsBball.|
When Rick Pitino was named St. John's head coach this past spring, he vowed to make Madison Square Garden the home court for the Red Storm that it once was.
On Monday night, that vision will come into fruition when they host Michigan at 6:30 p.m. in just the second game of this much-anticipated season. St. John's won their season opener on Tuesday at Carnesecca Arena, also colloquially known as The Lou, over Stony Brook, 90-74.
Pitino spoke to the media on the St. John's campus on Friday about his thoughts ahead of this big matchup with the blue and maize.
Pitino's Points: On Monday's game against Michigan: "This is an exciting game because Michigan is a lot different than last year. I think they are a lot better in terms of the way they are playing. Sometimes you can have more heralded basketball players, but they are not as good as a team. This Michigan team is very talented, very deep in the frontcourt, their four-man is great, their three-man is tough, their five-man is tough, their point guard is tough. It's a very, very good Michigan team that we are playing, and we are going to have to play a lot better.
"We played really hard against Stony Brook, but we are going to have to play a lot better to beat a team like Michigan...[Our team is] going to be very excited, obviously, playing in The Garden. Michigan is going to be very excited to play in The Garden. It's going to be a great game with two teams that have a lot of talent on this court. Michigan, for the second game of the season, it's a pretty special game."
On playing at Madison Square Garden: "It's like what [San Antonio Spurs Head Coach] Gregg Popovich said the other night, 'It's the world's greatest arena.' I think you hear so much about it growing up, you understand that, whether it's Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, whether it's LeBron [James], whether it's coaches, they all feel it's the world's greatest arena. It's been advertised and billed that way. There have been so many great games I've watched there. I actually signed my scholarship players [to play at UMass] after watching Marquette play when they turned down the NCAA Tournament and played in the NIT. I signed my scholarship players after the game on the floor of Madison Square Garden. It's always special and rightfully so. It deserves the distinction of the world's greatest arena."
On the team's progression since the Stony Brook game: "We showed them the positives and the negatives. We call it the good, the bad, and the teaching points of the game and there were 40 clips, which is a lot. Of things that did not go right in the Stony Brook game, we did a lot of good things in that game. We have six days to get ready for a much different team. Stony Brook was much better than a lot of opening games. They were very talented and I was very impressed with them. That was a very good opener. This is a killer second game and we have to play a lot better on the glass, a lot better defensively, although we did a lot of really good things defensively."
On the starting lineup: "If you asked me the least most important factor about going into a basketball game, it's the starting lineup. I would venture to say that we are going to change the starting lineup probably 10 times out of 25 to 30 games, so I put the least emphasis on who starts. You will know what I think of the players in the last five minutes of the game when the game is on the line."
On how he evaluates the players: "I'm not going to hold the past on these guys. I tell them all the time, I am not going to judge the fact that they lost at Penn, Harvard, VMI, or St. John's. I won't hold that against [them] and I'm not going to hold them in high esteem because of the great numbers [they] had. I'm going to judge you, not on the past, I'm going to judge you on what you do every day in practice. That's who you are in my eyes, not who you were. I judge them not by reputation, but what they are doing for me."