The World’s Most Famous Arena played host to two Italian-American coaches on Monday in a contest between the Michigan Wolverines and St. John’s Red Storm.
While St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino is one of the most accomplished coaches in NCAA basketball history with seven Final Four appearances and two national championships, it was just his second game at the helm of a high-major team since 2017 and his first at Madison Square Garden in recent memory. As for the Wolverines, former Philip Martelli was calling the shots as interim head coach while Juwan Howard continues to recover from heart surgery.
Both coaches have Italian roots and long careers as the head coach of successful collegiate basketball teams. Rick Pitino was in charge of top-tier programs like Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville in addition to NBA teams like the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics from 1985-2017. In 1999, Pitino was also inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, Phil Martelli was the head coach of Saint Joseph’s for 24 seasons, leading the Hawks to 16 postseason appearances (8 NCAA, 8 NIT) and a trip to the Elite Eight in 2004. That same year, Martelli was named the AP Coach of the Year and Naismith Coach of the Year for helping his team earn a No.1 seed in the March Madness tournament.
Dug McDaniel wound up being the top performer for Michigan with 26 points and 7 assists, while Tarris Reed Jr. led the way on the glass and defensive end of the floor with 11 boards along with 3 blocks and 2 steals. Joel Soriano was the standout player for the Red Storm, adding 15 points and 9 rebounds in the losing effort. The final score was 89-73, with Michigan leading the way for the majority of the game.
While Martelli got the upper hand this time around, it will be interesting to see how Pitino’s St. John’s team bounces back from their first loss of the season.