Rick Pitino at St. John's: President shares how Billy Donovan influenced his hiring decision
Rick Pitino was introduced, and held a press conference on Tuesday at St. John’s as the former Iona coach, and legendary figure in college basketball, took the podium.
At the event, St. John’s University president Fr. Brian Shanley shared that a phone call from former Florida coach and current Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan telling him to hire Rick Pitino was something he’ll look back on. Donovan told Shanley that Pitino changed his life, and that resonated with him.
Donovan played for Pitino at Providence, and the Florida Times-Union reported in 2012, that in 1985, Donovan was a quiet, overweight sophomore who rarely played. Donovan wanted to transfer once Pitino was hired, but no schools that interested Donovan were interested in him. Pitino convinced Donovan to stay, but ordered him to drop 30 pounds from his 191-pound body.
“He came back in awesome shape and was the third guard on the team that year,” Pitino said. “The following year he got so good, because I’ve never had in my life anyone work as hard to improve as him, in 35 years. We put him in a little cowboy hat, spurs and boots, and he wouldn’t put it on. I made him put it on. They put him on the cover of the program. That was the first caption of ‘Billy the Kid, the fastest gun in the Big East.’ That was the start of his college legend.”
Donovan, who led the Friars to the Final Four that season in 1987, later joined Pitino at Kentucky as a graduate assistant. Donovan has called Pitino the most influential person in his life, outside of his parents.
H/T John Fanta.