College Basketball
Pitino Chronicles, Episode 3: A New York state of mind
College Basketball

Pitino Chronicles, Episode 3: A New York state of mind

Published Jan. 24, 2024 11:13 a.m. ET

Editor's Note: FOX Sports is publishing an exclusive interview series with Rick Pitino throughout the college basketball season, highlighting the Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and the sport's active winningest head coach as he takes over at St. John's. In the third episode of our five-part series titled "The Pitino Chronicles," we're focusing on Pitino's New York roots, his legacy and the history of NYC basketball. Watch Episode 3 below, and catch up on Episode 1 here and Episode 2 here.

There's an extra sense of pride on the line for Rick Pitino as he leads St. John's because he knows what the Red Storm program stands for and the history that comes along with it.

Why? Because the Hall of Famer has been a New Yorker since birth. He was born in 1952 in New York City and grew up in Bayville. 

In Episode III of our interview series with the 71-year-old, we take a deep dive into his Gotham roots, examine New York basketball history and look at the center of the concrete jungle, Madison Square Garden, which will host the Big East Tournament for a 42nd consecutive year this March on FOX and FS1. 


"What makes The Garden different is the remarks by every great," Pitino said. "Whether it's Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James — they call it the world's greatest arena. 

"I was with Pitbull, a friend of mine, and he told me it's the most special place to ever get on stage at. Whether you are an entertainer or an athlete, wherever you are watching games, Madison Square Garden is the mecca for any game, concert or circus. It's the mecca." 

As for who his favorite all-time New York hoops star is, Pitino did not hesitate. 

"I would say Kareem is obviously No. 1," Pitino said. "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Kareem was just incredible. Not to leave anybody out, Dean "The Dream" Meminger, Kenny Anderson and Mark Jackson were great as well. But let's face it, Kareem set the standard. Kareem was the greatest of all time, without question. It would be a matter of who you like for second, whether it's Kenny "The Jet" Smith, or Mark Jackson, or Pearl Washington, you name it, and you can have your following." 

Pitino talked about his ties with the Queens neighborhood, going to elementary school at Sacred Heart in Cambria Heights in the late 1950s and playing basketball at the local courts after class. 

He also brought up some of his favorite memories with the New Knicks when he was the head coach from 1987-89, including a home winning streak at MSG as they chased the 1985-86 Celtics' record of 38 consecutive victories at the Boston Garden at the time. 

To cap this third episode, Pitino talks about his legacy, and what he is most proud of in his 50-year career. 

The Red Storm return to action at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday at Madison Square Garden against Villanova in an old-school Big East rivalry game on FS1. 

Watch Episode 3 of "The Pitino Chronicles" below and follow along at and on social media, @CBBonFOX, for details on the upcoming release of Episode 4 of the five-part series. 

Pitino Chronicles: Rick Pitino on the magnitude of basketball in New York City

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport 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.


Get more from College Basketball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more