Rick Pitino Hired by St. John’s After Time at Iona

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Stephen Vogt, Seattle’s new bullpen coach, caught 6,000 innings in pro ball and came away with keen insights on the colorful pitchers he worked with along the way.

 

When last we saw Crash Davis, the protagonist of Ron Shelton’s film “Bull Durham,” he had swatted one final homer and was on to his next life, considering a managerial opening in Visalia, Calif.

Visalia happens to be the hometown of Stephen Vogt, who homered last Oct. 5 in the final at-bat of his unlikely 10-year career in the majors. Vogt could easily have been the next Crash Davis, a vagabond catcher who got only a whiff of the big time. When Vogt finally reached The Show, after stops with five minor league teams — including, yes, the Durham Bulls — he started off 0 for 25. His team, the Tampa Bay Rays, soon sold his contract to Oakland.

But Vogt persisted, winding from the A’s to the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Atlanta Braves and back to the A’s last season, mostly as a mentor for a young roster. On that last, golden day in the majors, he squatted for his 6,000th professional inning behind the plate.

Now Vogt, 38, is on to another job, as the bullpen coach for the Seattle Mariners, not far from his home in Olympia, Wash. He could have been a special assistant, coming and going as he pleased, but that is not the way to connect with players. Baseball is an everyday job, and it matters to honor the grind.

The memories of the pitchers he caught are fresh — from a World Series icon to the ultimate one-game wonder, from an ambidextrous rookie to the one and only Bartolo Colon. In an interview over dinner last month, Vogt shared a personal farewell to arms: a behind-the-mask tour of the habits, humor and humanity of some of his era’s most captivating characters.

Rick Pitino has agreed to a six-year deal to become the new men’s basketball coach at St. John’s, the university said on Monday.

Pitino, 70, was expected to be introduced at a news conference on Tuesday at noon at Madison Square Garden, where he coached Patrick Ewing and the Knicks in the late 1980s and where St. John’s plays some of its home games.

The move was one of two major coaching changes in the Big East Conference. Also on Monday, Georgetown announced that it had hired Ed Cooley away from Providence to replace Ewing, who was fired as the Hoyas’ coach this month. Cooley is the first men’s coach in the league to move directly from one Big East team to another.

“Rick knows Big East basketball and is determined to take and keep the Red Storm program where we know it belongs,” the Rev. Brian J. Shanley, the president at St. John’s, said in a statement.

Pitino, the Hall of Fame coach who was fired from Louisville in 2017 after a string of scandals, has spent the past three seasons at Iona University, the private Roman Catholic school of about 3,000 undergraduates in New Rochelle, N.Y. Pitino led Iona on a 14-game winning streak to capture the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships, then lost to Connecticut in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament.

It will be Pitino’s third stint in the Big East Conference after coaching at Providence and Louisville, but he won’t have to move. He can remain at his home on the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., while taking his star power to games in Jamaica, Queens, and Madison Square Garden. He is expected to take some members of his staff from Iona with him to St. John’s.

St. John’s fired Mike Anderson on March 10 after the team missed three consecutive N.C.A.A. tournaments. (Anderson coached for four seasons, but the tournament was not held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.) The Red Storm haven’t been to the tournament since 2019.

Pitino had the backing of a longtime St. John’s coach, Lou Carnesecca.

“I don’t think we can get a better coach,” the 98-year-old Carnesecca told Fox 5 New York of Pitino before Pitino’s decision was public. He added: “Right? You can’t bring back Naismith.”

Pitino said in a statement that competing against Carnesecca and St. John’s was “one of my great coaching memories.” He added: “It is surreal to now have this opportunity to bring St John’s back to prominence.”

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Pitino met with Shanley, who spent 15 years as the president at Providence before he went to St. John’s in 2020, on Sunday on campus. Pitino laid out his vision for the program, which included an investment in improving facilities. Pitino said last week that Shanley once offered him the job at Providence while he was at Louisville.

Asked on Thursday if St. John’s could climb back to the heights it achieved when it reached the Final Four in 1985 along with its fellow Big East members Georgetown and Villanova, Pitino said that new rules in college sports to permit athletes to have endorsement deals allowed for any program to compete.

“Obviously you’re losing for a reason, but any place can be built,” he said.

Despite a checkered history that included several scandals while at Louisville, Pitino is considered one of the best coaches in college basketball history.

He is the only coach to lead two different men’s programs — Kentucky and Louisville — to national championships, although the 2013 title at Louisville was vacated and Pitino lost his job there after an F.B.I. investigation in which two assistant coaches were accused of funneling money from the university’s apparel sponsor, Adidas, to high school recruits. Pitino has long said that he did not know about the scheme, or another involving a staff member soliciting prostitutes and strippers for players and recruits.

“You can take down a banner, but you can’t take down a national championship,” Pitino said last week.

Pitino left coaching for more than a year, then coached a professional team in Greece before returning to the college ranks at Iona.

Several current and former Big East coaches believe Pitino will be an important — and potentially scary — addition to the league.

“Anything that happens relative to programs being superstrong in our league is only going to be beneficial to the Big East,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said last week.

Pitino said last week that he hoped to coach for another decade.

“Well, I’m physically fit and mentally I think I still have it,” he said on Thursday. “But my wife always says, ‘If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.’ I think you just take it one year at a time.”

Washington’s football team hasn’t won a championship in three decades, struggles to sell out its stadium and was recently ranked the least desirable team in the league by players. Manchester United is a perennial contender in the Premier League and is one of the most sought-after sports brands with about a billion fans around the globe.

The owners of both teams are exploring selling their clubs. The Washington Commanders are considering bids likely to exceed $6 billion, while Manchester United appears so far to have failed to secure bids for a similar amount.

On the surface, it defies logic that the Commanders are worth anything close to what Manchester United is. They have languished in a sport that is barely played outside North America, while Manchester United is one of the top teams in soccer, a global game with considerable potential for growth.

But the potential sale price of the two teams speaks volumes about the economics and the financial fortunes of the N.F.L., by far America’s most dominant league, and the Premier League, the world’s top-grossing domestic soccer competition.

Here is a primer on the disparity between the values of the clubs:

What are some of the differences in the economics of the two leagues?
“It’s simple, the economic structure of the N.F.L. is far superior to the economic structure of the E.P.L.,” said Sal Galatioto, a longtime sports banker who teaches the business of sports at Columbia University. “If you lose every game in the N.F.L., you still make money.”

The reason: The N.F.L. evenly divides all of its national revenue — from broadcast contracts, merchandise sales, sponsorships and so on — among its 32 teams, regardless of their performance. That money makes up about 75 percent of each team’s revenue, creating financial parity. (The rest comes from local revenue like ticket sales, parking and stadium naming rights.)

In the Premier League, some media revenue is distributed based on merit, so better teams earn more. And, each year, the three worst-performing teams are relegated to the Championship, where the media money is less lucrative.

What are the media deals worth?
In 2021, the N.F.L. renewed most of its broadcast contracts. They are worth more than $110 billion, nearly double the last deal. N.F.L. players receive a maximum of 48.8 percent of those media contracts, as well as merchandise sales, sponsorships and other national sources. The owners get the rest.

Critically, those broadcast contracts run into the next decade. That means even the Commanders, who have not won a playoff game since the second Bush administration, received roughly $350 million in national revenue, according to financials published by the Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned team.

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The Premier League media deals are typically smaller and shorter, though clubs that qualify for other tournaments like the Champions League can earn additional revenue. (Increased competition has made it harder than ever to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.) The last time the Premier League’s television rights were renewed in England, they grew only slightly, though international rights deals continue to rise in value. The league will earn a little less than $5 billion in media rights fees this year in total, less than half of what the N.F.L. will earn.

How do labor costs factor in?
N.F.L. players belong to the N.F.L. Players Association, which negotiated a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement in 2020. The N.F.L. also has a salary cap — $208 million last year, rising to $225 million this year. That means every club’s biggest expense — player payroll — is fixed.

This stability is lacking in the Premier League, which has fewer limits on payroll, which can lead to expensive and even crippling bidding wars for players. Failing to qualify for tournaments can prevent teams from keeping pace financially with their biggest rivals.

“Their player wages are so high that when they don’t make the Champions League, it can be punitive,” said Rob Tilliss, the founder of Inner Circle Sports, which has brokered team purchases in numerous sports.

What about supply and demand?
There are only 32 N.F.L. teams, with little chance of expansion — and that lack of supply keeps prices high. Teams also change hands infrequently, and when they do, their sale prices grow, which in turn enhances the value of the other 31 teams. The Buffalo Bills were sold for $1.4 billion in 2014. Four years later, the Carolina Panthers were purchased for $2.2 billion. Last year, the Denver Broncos were bought for $4.65 billion.

And if a potential Premier League franchise owner finds the price of a team too high, they can buy a team in a lower division, or hop across the English Channel to buy a team in France, Spain or elsewhere.

What prompted these owners to consider selling?
The Glazer family hired bankers to explore a potential sale of Manchester United in November, six months after Chelsea F.C., another top Premier League team, was sold for $3.1 billion, far more than expected for a club that was under extreme duress because of government sanctions related to its Russian owner.

For all of its tradition and success, Manchester United — which has won the Premier League 13 times since its formation in 1992 — lost more than $100 million in each of the last two years, and has more than $600 million in debt, according to its most recent financial statement. The amount it spends on player wages skyrocketed in the last decade and the team lost out on revenue by often failing to qualify for the Champions League.

Before reports of a possible sale in November, Manchester United’s stock price was below $14, where it traded when it was first listed in 2012. Fans have frequently demonstrated against the Glazers, viewing them as absentee owners interested in money, not sport.

Alcaraz, who won the men’s singles title at Indian Wells, reclaims the world No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic. But can he keep it?

The sun was setting in the desert, and dark clouds were gathering, but Carlos Alcaraz was walking jauntily down a hallway in Stadium 1 at the BNP Paribas Open.

He had finished ahead of the storm and everything else on his way to the trophy in Indian Wells, securing the title without losing a set, not even against Daniil Medvedev, the hottest hand in tennis, in an unexpectedly lopsided final on Sunday.

His 6-3, 6-2 victory — full of exquisitely disguised drop shots, lunging volley winners and other dazzle — did not only stop Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak in a hurry. It also earned Alcaraz a return to the No. 1 singles ranking on Monday, displacing Novak Djokovic, the Serb who is not allowed to enter the United States because he remains unvaccinated for the coronavirus.

Djokovic, a five-time singles champion in Indian Wells, is the most successful men’s hardcourt player in tour history. But his decision to forgo vaccination has caused him to miss a string of significant events, including last year’s U.S. Open, which Alcaraz, a Spaniard, won to ascend to the top spot in the rankings for the first time at age 19.

“Look, the truth is I’m a player, but I’m also a fan of tennis,” Alcaraz said in an interview on Sunday. “And in the end, having the best players in each tournament and being able to compete with the best is always good. Nobody wants to see people missing tournaments, especially me. I wish Djokovic were in every event and I could play against him and share the locker room with him and learn from him up close.”
It is the tennis duel that many would most like to see, and it did not happen in January at the Australian Open, which Djokovic won for the 10th time. Alcaraz missed it because of a leg injury incurred after lunging for a shot in practice shortly before he was scheduled to leave Spain for Australia. He had already missed the end of the 2022 season because of a torn stomach muscle.

“That was rough: to miss Australia, a Grand Slam I really wanted to play and thought I would have my chances to win,” Alcaraz said. “But it made me learn from the things I wasn’t doing right. You can be on court for two or three hours a day, but it’s also about how you take care of yourself outside the court: to rest, eat well, take the right supplements.”

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While the leading men have yet to all gather in the same spot this season, the leading women reunited in the desert and produced a repeat of the high-velocity Australian Open final between the 6-foot power players Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan by way of Moscow.

While Sabalenka won in a three-set classic in Melbourne, Rybakina prevailed on Sunday, 7-6 (11), 6-4, saving two set points in a nervy opening set that had even the self-contained Rybakina struggling to keep a poker face.

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Sabalenka’s stumbling block was a familiar one: double faults. They spoiled much of her early 2022 season, but she worked her way through the problem with help from a biomechanist and served well under duress in Australia. On Sunday, she regressed, making 10 double faults — all in the first set and three in the tiebreaker — and was clearly unsettled by it.

“There will be some days when old habits will come back, and you just have to work through it,” she said of what she had learned from the defeat.

Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion who is now No. 7 in the rankings, has beaten the No. 1, Iga Swiatek, twice this year, including overwhelming her in the semifinals on Saturday.