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Rick Pitino ‘lived like a monk’ during Iona’s COVID-19 nightmare

Iona men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was one of the most prominent NCAA coaches who voiced his preference for the college basketball season being pushed back due to surging COVID-19 cases.

Fast forward two months, and his team has had to suspend play on three separate occasions following coronavirus outbreaks. On Tuesday, Pitino revealed that he, too, contracted the virus during the team’s most recent shutdown.

Now recovered, Pitino told the Westchester Journal News he had to quarantine in a little apartment on Iona’s campus, while “living the life of a monk.” In order to protect his wife, Joanne, he did not return to their home in Mamaroneck, New York.

According to a team spokesman, the Gaels had nine of 17 players, in addition to two coaches and two managers, test positive since Jan. 4.

“We don’t have enough guys to run a practice,” Pitino told reporters. “We’ve had a few other positives and some of our players are symptomatic for the first time.”

With pauses in late November and again in early January, the team’s positive cases had all been asymptomatic, according to Pitino. Iona is eligible to return to player development workouts already and resume team activities later this week, per Pitino. However, only one player has been cleared to return so far.

Pitino said he expects to resume activities at some point early next week, and the team is scheduled to return on Feb. 3 at home against Manhattan. The Gaels have not played since Dec. 23. Players who have tested positive recently will have to pass a cardiac screening prior to returning to action.

“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,” Pitino said. “I don’t have a lot of positive thoughts going forward.”

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