Rick Pitino sounded the alarm for the future of college basketball, and St. John’s in particular, after Saturday’s loss to No. 1 Connecticut, raising concerns about how difficult it is now in the Name, Image & Likeness and transfer portal era to build a program.
In discussing the state of the Johnnies after their fifth loss in six games, he went off on a tangent about the future.
“It’s our first year. Every first year I’ve had, I’ve never had a great team. But I will tell you, I am worried about it,” Pitino said after the 77-64 setback. “It’s very tough to build. So many football coaches are getting out, so many basketball coaches are getting out. It’s tough to build a program.
“You have to really innovate, get creative and understand these rules right now — or lack of rules.”
Upon taking over for Mike Anderson last March, Pitino remade the roster, keeping only Joel Soriano and Drissa Traore. He brought in five fifth-year players who will need to be replaced this offseason.
“It’s a very difficult time in college basketball because it’s free agency and now I think what’s going to happen is [the NCAA is] going to say everybody can transfer,” Pitino said. “If they don’t like it, they’re going to take them to court. I think the NCAA enforcement staff should be disbanded, not because I dislike them, but they’re of no value at all.
“The enforcement staff needs to go away. We need to stop all the hypocrisy of NIL. Need to stop it because they can’t stop it. Whether I’m for or against it, it doesn’t matter.
“For us, we can’t really build programs and culture because everybody leaves. We did it with five fifth-year guys. They’re all going to leave and we need to replace them with new free agents.”
Saturday’s game was a sellout, St. John’s first since beating Villanova on Feb. 17, 2019.
Connecticut was without standout forward Alex Karaban (ankle).
St. John’s 3-point shooting continues to underwhelm.
It sank 4 of 14 attempts Saturday and has made 27.7 percent from long distance over the last six games.