There was no March Madness in 2020, and Rick Pitino doesn’t think there should be March Madness in 2021.
But he does think May Madness has a lot of potential.
“The problem is the NCAA is looking at it [like] ‘We have to get to March. Lot of TV money at stake. We have to get to March,’ and okay, I understand that,” the Iona head coach said on Tiki & Tierney. “So they’re going to play as many games as possible now because the students are leaving campus for break, [and] they’ll come back in mid-January.”
That, however, might not be ideal in terms of COVID-19. In fact, Pitino said it could be “a major problem.”
“It’s not football. It’s not the NBA in a bubble,” Pitino said. “It’s indoor college basketball with students now back to on campus, some virtual. When that happens, you’re in the middle of flu season; you’re in the middle of probably the height, the zenith, of COVID because of the cold weather, and now what are you going to do with all the disruptions, the postponements?
“So my thought was look, let’s keep everybody safe,” Pitino continued. “Let’s let the vaccine come out . . . In March, we open up the season, the vaccine has now taken place and we have some sort of herd immunity, and now we can have a tournament [in May] where we’re safe, sound . . . and everybody’s healthy. So I just thought it was in the best interest health-wise [and[ basketball-wise. We all want the same goal. We want to get to the postseason tournament [and] declare a national champion.”
Of course, if or when players test positive for the virus, they – and their teammates – will likely have to quarantine for at least 14 days.
“If you’re in prison, you’re allowed on the court for, I don’t know, a half hour or an hour a day,” Pitino said. "You can’t leave your dormitory. You are locked in a dormitory room for 14 days, which I think, quite frankly, is mentally really, really unhealthy for a young person. I think that’s very dangerous mentally.”
Pitino is back in college basketball after coaching in Greece for two years. He coached at Louisville from 2001 to 2017 but was fired amid an FBI pay-for-play investigation.
"I went over to Greece very bitter – bitter at Louisville, the way they fired me," Pitino said. "I came back from Greece saying, ‘You know what? I deserved to be fired.’ I’ve said this all along, I make no bones about it: In my lifetime, I’ve never given $5 to an athlete. I've never broken the rules. But I hired assistant coaches that did it the wrong way, and I’m the captain of the ship. If I didn’t educate them well enough – I thought I did – then it’s my fault. I deserved to be fired. I didn't like the way they went about firing me. I thought it was cruel to a certain degree, but I’ve totally forgiven them, moved on and now I'm just so looking forward to Iona."