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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Forecasting the 2023-24 Red Storm By Looking At Pitino’s Ledger

With Rick Pitino in the driver’s seat, where can the Johnnies go?
TORCH PHOTO / Brendan Willsch

The Mike Anderson era is over at St. John’s, and coaching legend Rick Pitino is now at the helm of the Men’s Basketball program. Pitino’s resume speaks for itself — he spent much of his introductory press conference last Tuesday promising a return to glory for the Red Storm moving forward.

What will this look like? With plenty of roster turnover already underway — and sixfive players in the portal already — projecting the upcoming season for St. John’s could feel like an impossible task. Perhaps it is an ill-advised practice anyway; after all, the rest of the Big East will undergo its own roster and personnel changes, and this year was a great example of how crucial intraconference play is.

Keeping this in mind, Pitino’s nearly five decades of experience can help paint some of the picture for the 2023-24 season. Certainly the new leader of the Red Storm has a strong narrative of success supporting him, but statistics are the best indicator at this time of where the Johnnies can go.

Pitino, historically

While Pitino’s track record is well-documented and easily accessible, its significance cannot be understated. He has amassed 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, seven trips to the Final Four and two national championships. Needless to say, he is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for a reason. 

Making a strong first impression

As Pitino moves into his office inside Carnesecca Arena, he will certainly seek to impress this fanbase early. However, at his last four schools — Providence, Kentucky, Louisville and Iona — his worst winning percentage of each tenure came in his first season at the helm. Additionally, Iona is the only team he has taken to the NCAA Tournament in year one. It is noteworthy that this was the condensed 2020-21 season, and they received an automatic bid by way of winning their conference tournament. 

That is not to say Pitino will struggle out the gate at St. John’s, but patience may be a virtue for this fanbase; across those debut seasons at his five full-time gigs, he holds just a .585 win-loss percentage. A silver lining is this: Anderson only eclipsed this percentage once in four seasons (2020-21) and never did so in conference play.

Another area of concern involves roster turnover; Pitino said that he will “probably have to bring in six to eight players for the team” during his introductory press conference. Even with Storr, King, Pinzon, Alexander, Addae-Wusu and Stanley already in the portal, fans should expect this fluid situation to continue evolving long after this story’s publication. Regardless, Pitino has varying experience with this in taking over new teams: just 34% of minutes played from the previous season returned for the Gaels in 2020-21, while Louisville’s 2001-02 team saw 69.3% of minutes return in Pitino’s debut. 

We will know soon enough just how different the 2023-24 roster will look for St. John’s, but if every current and eligible player returned — minus the current sextet of departures – Pitino would have 38.7% of this season’s minutes back in the fold. 

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

 

Joel Soriano under Pitino

Senior center Joel Soriano was the Red Storm’s best player this past season, establishing career highs across most major categories while taking home the Big East’s Most Improved Player award. With statistics rivaling those of the country’s best centers, his return to the Red Storm in 2023-24 sets the stage for another stellar campaign. Thankfully, Pitino is no stranger to coaching strong play at the center position.

Jamaal Magloire comes to mind as a similar player to Soriano. In his final season at Kentucky, Magloire averaged 12.7 points and 9.1 boards per game, leading the conference in rebounding and earning himself a spot on the All-SEC First Team. He also found success in getting to the free throw line, as he was second in free throws made and attempted in the SEC that year. In comparison, Soriano ranked third in the Big East this year in both charity stripe categories, while also leading the conference in rebounds per game.

Since 1985, Pitino has coached 35 players who have gone on to play in the NBA. While Soriano’s professional career post-St. John’s is a separate discussion, it is evident that Pitino is capable of developing players to the point that they can compete on the world’s most competitive level of basketball. Soriano may not be the NBA draft prospect some of these players were, but their success at the collegiate level prior is something to consider in visualizing what he can achieve in a St. John’s uniform next season. After all, Soriano’s 393 total rebounds in 2022-23 surpassed any single-season total achieved by those three aforementioned players when they were in college.

At the end of the day, the St. John’s Red Storm will have a very different look next season. Fans will surely relish this change, but for now there are plenty of unknowns for this program. With so much excitement in the air, the next few months will be a painfully long wait for the Johnny faithful.

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  • C

    Cranjis McBasketballApr 3, 2023 at 7:08 pm

    This article definitely makes me crazy about the Johnnies!

    Reply
  • F

    Fatguard22Mar 31, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    Because of Coach Pitino great ability to develop talent, it would have been great to see what Pitino could have done with Storr, Posh, Wusu, King, Pinzon, Stanley, Curbelo, and Jones. With Pitino coaching those 8 named with Soriano, Traore, and Keita they would have made the Big Dance for upcoming 23-24 season JMO.

    Reply
    • M

      MarkarizedJul 11, 2023 at 7:47 pm

      I agree with you!

      Reply