Once again, Rick Pitino and the Iona Gaels are shutting down.
This time, though, they won’t be able to return until the MAAC tournament.
Iona announced Monday that it once again had to pause the program due to a COVID-19 outbreak, one of several it has dealt with this season. The Gaels’ final five games of the regular season have now been canceled.
“This is extremely unfortunate news to learn at a time so late in the season,” Pitino said in a statement. “I feel awful for our student-athletes who worked so hard to get back following our pause that lasted nearly two months.
“The pandemic is still very real, and ultimately the health and safety of those around the program is most important. We look forward to returning and competing in the MAAC championship in March.”
Rick Pitino urged NCAA to delay season
This latest shutdown marks the fourth for Iona so far this season. The team, at one point, was sidelined for nearly two months after nine players, two coaches and two managers all tested positive. Pitino, 68, contracted the coronavirus himself, though has since recovered.
Pitino, who is in his first year at Iona, was very weary about even starting the season back in November. He urged the NCAA to push the season back and simply have “May Madness” instead of the tournament in March due to record spikes in cases throughout the country.
Save the Season. Move the start back. Play league schedule and have May Madness. Spiking and protocols make it impossible to play right now.
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) November 14, 2020
Iona will now enter the MAAC tournament with an 8-5 overall record — having played only 13 total games since the season started in November. The Gaels have played just five games since Dec. 23, all of which came in the past 10 days.
Succeeding in a conference tournament with that few games under their belt will undoubtedly be extremely difficult — something he predicted last month.
“The only way for us to get through this unscathed is for every single member of the basketball team to catch it, which is not the case,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of positive thoughts going forward.”
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