Rick Pitino Criticizes St. John’s Players

On Monday, St. John’s coach Rick Pitino reiterated his stance on the criticism he voiced towards his team following their disappointing performance on Sunday night. The Red Storm squandered a commanding 19-point lead in a home loss against tristate rival Seton Hall, prompting Pitino to express his concerns without hesitation.

During a candid postgame news conference, the Hall of Fame coach, now in his inaugural season at St. John’s, openly addressed the issue of toughness among his players. He singled out several individuals by name, pinpointing specific areas of athletic deficiency as he assessed the team’s shortcomings.

“Our lateral quickness and our toughness is just something I’ve never witnessed in all my years of coaching,” Pitino said Sunday night, adding, “We are so nonathletic that we can’t guard anybody without fouling.”

On Monday, while talking to Newsday, Pitino insisted he “truly wasn’t ripping anybody.”

“I was pointing out exactly — in a monotone voice — why we lost,” he told Newsday. “I am not always calm and certainly not when I rip someone…I was not ripping anybody. I sometimes want my players to hear my words and read my words. That was my intention.”

St. John’s began the season on a strong note — boasting a 12-4 record highlighted by victories against opponents such as Utah, Xavier, Butler, Villanova, and Providence. However, their momentum has dwindled significantly since then, evidenced by a dismal 2-8 record in their last ten games. This downward spiral has seen the Red Storm plummet to ninth place in the Big East standings, effectively dropping out of contention for a spot in the projected NCAA tournament field.

Coach Pitino finds himself grappling with lineup decisions as he looks for answers. This struggle was underscored by his recent decision to bench All-Big East standout Joel Soriano during the game against Providence.

“I was asked the question, ‘Why do you blow second-half leads?’ And I can tell you sometimes it’s missed free throws at the end of the game and [opponents] make free throws,” Pitino said Monday. “Sometimes, it’s a turnover. Sometimes, it’s bad shot selection that leads to run-outs. It’s not the same reason every time.

“But it’s the same reason every time of why you foul: You foul because you take a bad shot, you get caught in a bad situation defensively, and you are not overly quick laterally. So, when you go to [defend] the basket, rather than beat them to the spot, you foul. That’s what I was trying to point out.”

Soriano was among the players mentioned by Pitino who struggle to move defensively.