Rick Pitino vs. Richard Pitino: Their third father-son matchup has intrigue as Iona faces New Mexico

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There will be a family gathering Sunday in Albuquerque, New Mexico as Richard Pitino’s New Mexico Lobos play host to the Iona Gaels, coached by his father, Rick Pitino.  About 20 members of the Pitino family are expected to be at The Pit, although there is no word yet on what colors they will be wearing. 

It should be a fun day for all those involved but there won’t be any trash talking, at least according to the coaches.

“He’s 70 years old and in the Hall of Fame. I’m trying to rebuild a program,” Richard told CBS Sports. “I would be trash talking too if I was his age.”

Meanwhile, Rick said Iona is just a “small Catholic school trying to get a break in life” and that there won’t be trash talk coming from his side either. 

That’s all easier said than done. Richard’s son, Jack, didn’t get the memo in the summer and decided to do the griddy on the Iona logo while visiting his grandfather. That incident, Richard joked, officially ignited the rivalry. However, Rick already took care of that situation

While working on the schedule for this season, Rick mentioned to his son that the Gaels were looking for a team near the west coast to play on their way to the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. Richard saw this as a perfect opportunity for both programs because the Lobos needed a high-profile opponent and a father/son matchup would certainly attract a crowd.

“We knew New Mexico was going to be great because my son called me for the game,” Rick said this week. “He never called me before.”

This upcoming matchup is part of a home-and-home series, which means the Lobos will be traveling to New York next season.   

Sunday’s game vs. Iona (7-2) is a highly anticipated one with 11,000 tickets sold as of Wednesday — well above the average attendance of 8,181 at The Pit this season. That number is expected to increase as the game gets closer.

“I think it’s going to be a big treat for the players. I told them they are going to have 13-14,000 fans,” said the Gaels coach. “I said Richard is going to look to beat us by 30. He’s not going to say, ‘oh I’ll take it easy on dad.’ The reason why he’s going to want to beat us by 30 is because I taught him that way.”

Rick got to experience The Pit last season when he made a quick trip to Albuquerque to watch his son coach the in-state rivalry game against New Mexico State. The Lobos lost that game, but Rick got to be one of 13,019 fans cheering on the Lobos.

Richard is 0-2 against his father through his head coaching career. The losses happened in 2012 and 2014, when Rick was coaching the Louisville Cardinals.

Previous Pitino vs. Pitino meetings

Dec. 19
Rick Pitino
Richard Pitino
Nov. 14
Rick Pitino
Richard Pitino

With more experience under his belt, Richard has been impressing his dad with how New Mexico looks this season. The Lobos are 10-0 for the first time since 2012-13 and receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll.

Just a few weeks ago, the Lobos took a 69-65 win against Saint Mary’s on the road and snapped the Gaels’ 23-game home winning streak — the longest in program history.

Richard was an assistant coach under his father at Louisville from 2007-09. During that time, Rick said he made his son do all the scouting for every game. However, the hard work began even earlier than that. Richard became a high school coach when he was a student at Providence. His father said he was working 14-15 hours a day, which meant missing out on a regular college experience but building a strong work ethic.

“I’m very, very proud of him. Love him to death,” Rick said. “But he knows he’s not coaching against me. He is coaching against Iona. He knows how much I want to win, and even more so how much I hate to lose.”

Richard took over the Lobos in 2021 after eight seasons in Minnesota. He said that part of being Rick Pitino’s son means people assume his father is involved in all his career moves. He said that’s not accurate, but he does greatly value his father’s opinion and support. 

When he was considering the New Mexico job, Rick told his son that Albuquerque was a basketball town and that coaching the Lobos would be a good opportunity. Richard said it was not a long conversation, but he felt good about the validation from him and other coaches he talked to including Gonzaga’s Mark Few and UCLA’s Mick Cronin 

His own dad’s opinion was very important, not because they are family, but because Richard has a lot of respect for him as a coach.

“You’re witnessing greatness,” Richard said. “I’ve said from Day One, there’s three coaches that are the best in the history of college basketball. John Wooden, Coach K and him. I really believe that. I’ve marveled at his competitive spirit, his desire…just the desire to get the most out of everybody. It’s something that I try to take from him and use it in my program.”

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