Sources: St. John’s intends to hire Rick Pitino as head basketball coach

St. John’s has one goal in mind now: complete a deal with Rick Pitino to be the Red Storm’s next head coach.

Sources close to the program tell FOX Sports that the university plans to finalize a deal with the Hall of Famer in the coming days. It has been reported that Pitino has mutual interest in taking over the Red Storm. Now, the ball is in Pitino’s court.

Pitino’s Iona Gaels concluded their season with an 87-63 loss to UConn on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Pitino, 70, is the only coach in college basketball history to lead three programs (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to the Final Four, and has won 711 games in his coaching career. Won the national championship in 1996 (Kentucky) and 2013 (Louisville, which was later vacated).

For the president of the University of St. John’s, Brian Shanley, and for athletic director Mike Cragg, this coaching search is about making the Red Storm a relevant force in college basketball again, sources tell FOX Sports. The program missed four straight NCAA Tournaments under Mike Anderson and hasn’t won a game in the big ball in 23 years.

For Pitino, who lives at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., the prospect of coaching at St. John’s means you don’t have to move, as the course is about 23 miles from the campus of the University of St. John’s.

The return to Queens gives him a chance to move back to the Big East Conference, where he was from 1985-87 while at Providence, and then from 2005-2013 at Louisville.

For a program of St. John’s has spent several years off the national map in college basketball, this move to acquire Pitino, who is no longer tied to the NCAA investigation or the threat of sanctions, indicates a clear desire to win with the Red Storm and of returning to relevance in New York City.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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