Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Pitino Pregame: St. John's Returns To The Garden Wednesday Night


Rick Pitino and his St. John's players before player introductions on December 6th. Photo by Jason Schott.

The St. John's Red Storm returns to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night when they take on the Providence Friars.

The Red Storm enters this one with a 3-1 record in Big East Conference play (11-4 overall) after they won at Villanova on Saturday afternoon. Providence is also 11-4, but 2-2 in Big East play, in their first season under Head Coach Kim English.

PITINO PREGAME: St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the media on Tuesday morning at Carnesecca Arena, colloquially known as The Lou, and here is what he had to say ahead of this pivotal matchup:

On his takeaways from Saturday's win at Villanova: "I think we played really well. I think we did a lot of good things, mixed up our defenses well and did some good things offensively, so I was very pleased."

On the team's energy after beating Villanova: "This is about as good a group as I've had off the court, as I've ever had, and they've been consistent since from the first day until now. They haven't been falling in love with themselves, they understand how difficult the Big East is and they also understand that they can lose to anyone. But now what I think they are appreciating is that when they play defense they will get the fruits of their labor. Before, they thought that offense was just going to win for them, and I told them that was a recipe for failure. Now they realize why they have won. If you do the metrics from the last few games, you'll see the major difference in our basketball team."

On where he sees the team at right now: "Everything's a work in progress. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with the wins we have had, but this is not a great basketball team by any stretch of the imagination. We have so much room for improvement. What I am hoping for is that come March, we are a really good basketball team. There's no reason for this team to be a great basketball team right now. They have had major injuries and they are all new to each other, new to me...It's not going to happen overnight with us. We are building a culture, we are building fundamentals, we are building different offenses and defenses in our program and it's going to take some time. But I am hoping by March we will be a much better basketball team than we are now."

On drawing fans back to St. John's: "It takes winning, but I also think it takes time. You're not like the Jets, the Giants, or the Knicks where people just show up whether you win or lose because the tickets are so expensive...College basketball is different. This is not college football. Football is an entirely different sport today, unlike it was 20 years ago. Football has taken over the country and with basketball, you've got to market it properly, you've got to win, you've got to build a base. So much of St. John's [fanbase] is subway alumni, people that didn't attend here. Those subway alumni can leave in a matter of days if you don't give them a good product."

On Providence: "Obviously, Providence is very dear to me. They hired [Kim English] who has only been a head coach for two years...I think they hit a home run because everything I've seen in five different films [of their games] tells you that their coaching is outstanding. I think they have a terrific young coach, who is going to give them winning teams for years. I'm very impressed with the way that they play defense. I'm very impressed with how hard they play. I'm very impressed with their strategy. They are one of the top defensive teams in the nation. Like us they had a major injury, much more serious than us because they lost [Bryce Hopkins] for the season and they played Creighton to the wire the other night [on the road]. I'm very impressed with the Friars. There is not a college I think more highly of than them. My greatest two years in coaching were there and I had some really good runs, but those two years are closest to my heart."

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