The college basketball world has big expectations for Rick Pitino going into his first season as coach at St. John’s

Returning to the Big East after three seasons at Iona, Pitino is hoping to lift the Red Storm to the success he achieved at KentuckyLouisville and his first Big East stop, Providence. His teams regularly qualify for the NCAA tournament, and seven of his squads have advanced to the Final Four. 

Pitino also has two national championships on his résumé, cutting down the nets in 1996 and 2013. (However, the ’13 title with the Cardinals was vacated by the NCAA as a result of an escort scandal involving recruits.) He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in ’13.

That’s the mountaintop he’s eyeing from Queens. If he fails to reach that goal, the coach said he will himself hold himself accountable in a unique way, as he stated in a promotional video. 

“To be perfectly honest, if we don’t win a national championship,” Pitino said, “I’m jumping in the East River and ending my career.” 

Pitino smiled and laughed, so he was apparently joking. At age 71, Pitino likely is making the final stop of his long coaching career, anyway. But he’s made it clear that coaching in the Big East provides a path to championship ambitions–or else.