ALBANY — Mike Repole is eager to return to St. John’s as a benefactor of the basketball program if the Queens school can close on Rick Pitino.
The billionaire alumnus is firmly behind the potential hire and ready to get involved, he told The Post in an exclusive interview.
With the advent of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), his deep pockets would certainly benefit the Red Storm, who are involved in the NIL space with a collective, Storm Marketing.
“As a proud and passionate St. John’s alum, I’ve waited over 15 years for St. John’s to hire a Hall of Fame coach like Rick Pitino,” Repole, the Vitamin Water co-founder, business mogul and Queens native, said Saturday afternoon, as St. John’s continued its pursuit of Pitino, the Iona coach. “He’s the type of coach that the University has deserved since the day Louie Carnesecca retired.”
Iona didn’t return to the area until Saturday afternoon, a source said, after the Gaels lost their NCAA Tournament opening-round game to Connecticut at MVP Arena in Albany.
Pitino was expected to meet with school brass on Sunday or Monday.
The 70-year-old coach has said he was not familiar enough with St. John’s and would want to learn more before making a decision on his future.
Multiple sources expect things to move quickly, because both St. John’s and Pitino want to see a quick resolution.
Pitino was expected to meet with school brass at some point this weekend.
A source close to Pitino told The Post he didn’t want to move from his home in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on the Winged Foot Golf Club, suggesting he would either take the St. John’s job or stay at Iona.
Another source said St. John’s president Rev. Brian Shanley, who nearly hired Pitino 12 years ago while he was president at Providence, has been “relentless” in his pursuit.
Repole, 54, has financially supported Fordham in recent years, but has maintained a relationship with St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg, he said.
Repole and Pitino have a shared interest in horse racing (Repole won the Belmont Stakes last June and owns Repole Stables).
They have known each other for more than 15 years, Repole said.
Pitino and Cragg have been made aware of Repole’s intentions, according to sources.
“If St. John’s offers Rick Pitino the job and Rick Pitino decides to accept the position, I definitely would be involved in both helping the basketball team financially and helping Rick out with NIL,” Repole said.
“Trying to be a successful entrepreneur, there’s certain people in different areas of business or sports, you look up to what they do. Whether it’s [the late] Kobe Bryant in basketball or Tom Brady in football or Rick Pitino as a coach. These are the people that I aspire to be in my business with.”
Repole, a past booster, was a vocal critic of the last St. John’s coaching search in 2019.
He went on WFAN and ripped former president Bobby Gempesaw and the board of trustees for what he felt was low-balling Cragg’s first choice, Bobby Hurley, and for not hiring his brother Dan, now the coach at Connecticut, during the previous search in 2015.
The school opted for Chris Mullin in 2015 and Mike Anderson in 2019, neither of whom worked out.
“I think everything I said in that rant was accurate,” said Repole, who now resides in Florida. “That’s in the past, and just that we’re pursuing a coach like Rick Pitino tells me the new administration is way different from that administration I was talking about. I don’t have a relationship with Father Shanley, but everybody who I encounter that knows him only has incredibly positive things to say about him.”
Asked if would buy season tickets if Pitino does in fact take over at St. John’s, Repole laughed.
“With all the help I’m planning to give the basketball program,” he joked, “I’m hoping I can get a few free seats.”