Rick Pitino adds Lou Carnesecca twist to UConn arena drama
The St. Johns-Connecticut venue saga has another layer to it.
A few weeks after Rick Pitino said he wanted to play the Huskies at Carnesecca Arena next season, he noted that athletic director Mike Cragg has requested to the league that the game be played on the 100th birthday of legendary coach Lou Carnesecca, which is Jan. 5, 2025.
Big East policy dictates that the conference can choose where the highest-profile games will be played if a school such as St. Johns plays more than two home games at multiple venues.
The Garden, where the Red Storm are playing eight times this year, will obviously want the Connecticut game played in its building. St. Johns hasnt hosted the Huskies on campus since 1990.
Ill say this: This was planned in the summer. We want to honor Louie with a big game when he turns 100, whether its Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown. We want it to be a champion team, and certainly Connecticut and Villanova are the two elite champions, Pitino said. I said this the other day, I dont think Connecticut knows how to take a compliment.
3Rick Pitino wants to play UConn at Carnesecca Arena. Corey Sipkinfor the NY POSTThe fact we want to play them at Carnesecca is the ultimate compliment of all time, because the three best fan bases in all of college basketball for travel are Kentucky, Kansas and UConn. They travel the best, they have the best fans. They sell out at home, they have major crowds. We want a champion team, and if the Big East wont give us a champion team, well go out and get a non-conference gigantic opponent to honor Louie. Everything you hear about that is complementary to the UConn program.
One of the reasons that Pitino has wanted to play the game on campus is to tweak UConn coach Dan Hurley, it is believed.
St. Johns and Pitino felt Hurleys sideline behavior in fourth-ranked UConn’s win on Dec. 23 was inappropriate, according to sources.
3UConn beat St. John’s on Dec. 23, 2023. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConAnother factor is that Huskies fans have flooded the Garden when they play St. Johns.
When told of Pitinos initial plans to move the game, Hurley said: Everyones trying to get what we have. Weve won four national championships since 2000 here at UConn, they havent had much success since then, especially when they went from Fran Fraschilla to Mike Jarvis and they had those real good teams with Ron Artest.
3Former St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca is 99 years old. Charles Wenzelberg / New York PostTheyre trying to do what they need to do to build their program up. But, anyone not named Duke, Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky Im probably going to miss a couple of teams here theyre all going for where were at. Weve had unbelievable success here in basketball. There are programs who havent been to a Final Four, or havent been to the NCAA Tournament in 20 years, so theres obviously a lot of punching up.
St. Johns associate head coach Steve Masiello tweeted in response: I think Coach Pitino stopped punching up after his 5th Final 4, or was it his 6th ? no wait. I think it was after his 7th!
Stay tuned. The teams meet at the Garden on Feb. 3.
There are almost certain to be fireworks that day.
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