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SJU's Pitino 'not ripping anybody,' stands by words

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Published in Breaking News
Monday, 19 February 2024 20:18

St. John's coach Rick Pitino said Monday he stands by the criticism he leveled at his team Sunday night after the Red Storm blew a 19-point first-half lead in a 68-62 home loss to tristate rival and fellow bubble team Seton Hall.

The Hall of Fame coach, in his first season at St. John's, didn't hold back during a postgame news conference in which he questioned his players' toughness and mentioned several by name while describing their athletic 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."

But Pitino, speaking to Newsday on Monday, 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 [Sunday]."

St. John's started the season with a 12-4 record, including wins over Utah, Xavier, Butler, Villanova and Providence. But the wheels have fallen off since then, with the Red Storm going 2-8 in their past 10 games to fall to ninth place in the Big East and out of the projected NCAA tournament field.

Pitino is struggling to find the right combination of players, even taking All-Big East big man Joel Soriano out of the starting lineup against Providence last week due to inconsistency.

Soriano was among the players -- "about five guys are slow laterally" -- mentioned by Pitino who struggle to move defensively.

"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."

Pitino also told Newsday he didn't think he needed to clarify any of his comments from Sunday's news conference, noting, "I'm fine with what I said."

Information from ESPN's Jeff Borzello was included in this report.

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