Rick Pitino was introduced as the new head coach of the St. John's men's basketball program on Tuesday at a news conference at Madison Square Garden. The 70-year-old praised the legacy of the program and promised that better days are ahead. NewsdayTV's Roger Rubin reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Sellout crowds at Madison Square Garden. Non-conference games against the best college teams in the land. Players that can shoot, defend and run all day. A place in the national rankings.

These are a few of the visions for St. John’s basketball that Rick Pitino shared during and after he was introduced at the Garden on Tuesday as the new coach of the Red Storm.

The Hall of Famer, who was born in Manhattan and grew up on Long Island, vowed that the Storm will rise up and again stand with the elite as it did when St. John’s legend Lou Carnesecca led it.

“St. John’s is one of the legendary names in all of college basketball,” Pitino said. “Has it fallen on tough times? Yes, it has. But now we’re ready [for] great times . . . St John’s will be back. I guarantee that.”

“It’s not about when or if,” he added. “It’s going to happen for St. John’s and it’s going to happen in a big way,”

Spotting the 98-year-old Carnesecca in the front row, Pitino pointed to him and said, “Lou built a legendary program — legendary — and we will get back to those days by exemplifying everything that he taught.”

Pitino joins St. John’s on a six-year contract from Iona, where he led the Gaels to two NCAA Tournaments in three seasons, and brings a reputation for restoring once-great programs. Both Kentucky and Louisville had faded from the national spotlight when he took over. Both reached a Final Four in his fourth season and went on to win national championship games.

In introducing Pitino, Rev. Brian Shanley, the university president, said that he’d gotten unsolicited advice everywhere from his dry cleaner to church but found revelatory a call from Long Island great Billy Donovan, who played for Pitino, coached Florida to two national titles and went on to the NBA.

“He said ‘Father, I really think you should hire Rick Pitino’ and he didn’t talk about the wins,” Shanley said. “Billy talked about the impact that coach had had on his life . . . And it’s the impact on our basketball players’ lives that’s the most important thing for me in picking a coach. Yes, I want to win. But . . . what I care most about is what kind of human beings these guys become . . . I believe that Rick not only will bring a winning culture to St. John’s, but he will be a transformative figure in the lives of our student-athletes.”

Pitino said he is bringing his entire coaching staff over from Iona and keeping Anderson assistant Van Macon. However, the roster for 2023-24 will be vastly different. When asked where the St. John’s turnaround will start, he replied “get players.”

Second-team all-conference center Joel Soriano, at the Garden Tuesday, is a keeper. But Pitino said at least a half dozen new players are going to come in and he wasn’t sure that even point guard Posh Alexander would remain.

“I need guys who can shoot the basketball, not get fatigued, get after it defensively,” he said. “A lot of players probably won’t be back on this team because they’re probably not a good fit for me.”

He added that he made inquiries about the current team and “to be honest with all of you, I didn’t get glowing reports,” except on Soriano.

Four Iona players have placed their names in the NCAA transfer portal, three in the hours after Pitino’s introduction including MAAC Player of the Year Walter Clayton Jr.

Pitino’s vision also involves playing most of St. John’s games at the Garden and very few at the on-campus arena. He said that by the second year he expects to play virtually every Big East game there, and Joel Fisher, the executive VP for marquee events and operations for MSG Entertainment, said “we’re very open to that.”

“Rick and I have spoken on this and [he] wants to play here,” Fisher added. “St. John’s hasn’t played the tough teams over past years, which I think has hurt them, and Rick wants to play the best teams in the country and play them here . . . I envision a bigger [St. John’s] presence.”

Pitino said that by his second season “almost every game will be played in a major arena” because Carnesecca Arena “isn’t big enough for the brand of basketball we’re going to build.”

“I know how you have to sell a lot of tickets [but] that won’t be a problem,” he added. “When they see the brand of basketball we’re going to put on that floor and the players that we’re going to bring in? It will not be a problem.”

St. John's has struggled mightily since Lou Carnesecca left the sidelines three decades ago. How his successors have fared:

Coach                Tenure       Record     Big East Titles NCAA App.

Mike Anderson    2019-23     68-56            0                       0

Chris Mullin         2015-19    59-73             0                       1

Steve Lavin         2010-15    92-72             0                       2

Norm Roberts     2004-10     81-101          0                       0

Kevin Clark (int.) 2004           2-17             0                       0

Mike Jarvis          1998-2004 66-60           0                       2

Fran Fraschilla    1996-98     35-24           0                       1

Brian Mahoney    1992-96     56-58           0                       1


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