Iona coach Rick Pitino had COVID-19 during massive program outbreak, shutdown

Head coach Rick Pitino of Iona Gaels
Rick Pitino said he quarantined in a small apartment and was "living the life of a monk" during his COVID-19 battle. (Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)

Iona coach Rick Pitino revealed on Tuesday that he contracted COVID-19 earlier this year, part of a widespread outbreak within the Gaels’ program.

Pitino, 68, has since recovered and is doing fine. During his isolation, however, Pitino said he stayed in a tiny apartment on campus and was “living the life of a monk” to spare his wife at home.

He has also received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, though it came too late.

Pitino’s positive test was part of a massive outbreak at Iona, which saw nine players, two coaches and two managers test positive since Jan. 4. The program has now shut down three times this season.

"We don't have enough guys to run a practice," Pitino said Tuesday, via the Rockland/Westchester Journal News. "We've had a few other positives and some of our players are symptomatic for the first time."

Pitino: ‘I don’t have a lot of positive thoughts going forward’

Pitino is just the latest in the college basketball world to contract the virus.

Plenty of coaches, including Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg and Texas’ Shaka Smart, among others, have revealed they tested positive for the coronavirus this season. South Carolina coach Frank Martin even contracted it twice.

The Gaels aren’t alone in having to shut down, either. Oregon, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Michigan State were all forced to either shut down or postpone games this month due to outbreaks.

The country is averaging more than 170,000 new cases a day, according to The New York Times, and more than 3,000 deaths. The United States recorded more than 4,000 deaths in a single day twice last week, too.

Iona hasn’t played since Dec. 23, though it is set to return on Feb. 3. Pitino said Tuesday he hopes to start workouts again early next week, though only one player on his team has been cleared to play.

Given how his year has gone, especially without anyone else on campus, Pitino isn’t hopeful about how the season is going to end.

“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, via the Rockland/Westchester Journal News. “I don’t have a lot of positive thoughts going forward.”

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