As Rick Pitino discussed with St. John’s officials how they could build a winner together, his priority wasn’t name, image and likeness or improving facilities. It wasn’t talent either.
“The most important thing I said to them is what you don’t have, what you should have, is culture,” Pitino told The Post shortly after accepting the head coaching position at Queen’s on Monday. “You don’t have a culture, and that’s what has to happen first. You have to develop a culture with your basketball program.”
Pitino didn’t say that meant the Johnnies roster had to be completely changed, but he didn’t say it would stay the same either.
Predictions are that there will be big changes after a second consecutive poor season saw Mike Anderson be fired, although maintaining pole position Joel Soriano is a priority.
Two players — Rafael Pinzon and Andre Curbelo — were suspended on points last season, and Dylan Addai-Woo was removed from the loss to Iowa State for disciplinary reasons.
There has been no player movement since the end of the season, but that may not last long.
Pitino plans to meet or speak with players and advisors over the next few days, and begin formulating plans for their roster.
“If the kids aren’t willing to go to class, if the kids don’t want to be completely respectful, then they have to move on,” Pitino said. “If they are fully content to go to class and get an education and are fully aware of the respect for every person involved, they will seriously consider being part of the team. Anyone who is not respected and does not have what I call the dignity of St. John, will not be part of the team.”
Pitino told his returning Iona players that he hoped they would stick together and play for whoever would be the next coach.
He is unfamiliar with St. John’s three freshmen, four-star forward Brandon Gardner for Christ the King, youth college All-American Yaxel Lindeborg and unranked high school guard Harrison Reed.
Pitino plans to get to know her in the coming days.
“I have to talk to them, I have to see a movie [of them],” he said. “I want to make sure they can play with the style of play that I coach, I want to make sure they understand the style of play, and they understand commitment.”
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