Rick Pitino says St. John's, Kentucky future series is set

Kentucky is set to begin a series with St. John's and Rick Pitino in 2025-26.
Rick Pitino Kentucky
Rick Pitino Kentucky / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

Mark Pope began putting together future schedules right when he took the job at Kentucky and made it quite clear who he wanted to play. That was St. John's.

During his introductory press conference, Pope, who played under Pitino at Kentucky and won the 1996 National Championship together, was asked about his process on non-conference scheduling and what goes into the decisions around neutral site games and pre-season tournaments. 

“Anybody down for a game with St. John’s," Pope said.

Rick Pitino made it known he would be more than willing to set that series up.

"St. John's accepts, this year at UK, next year at the Mecca (Madison Square Garden)," Pitino wrote on social media. "Looking forward to saying goodbye to Kentucky."

That was last month.

On Monday, it appeared discussions took the next step with an official series taking shape.

According to college basketball insider Adam Zagoria, the series is set to begin in 2025-26.

The matchup will honor the 1996 National Championship team for its 30th anniversary.

“For our 30th anniversary next year we will go to Rupp [Arena] and they will return to MSG the following year [2026-27],” Pitino told Zagoria.

Pitino was very vocal about Pope's hire at Kentucky, especially what it would mean to the program.

"Mark Pope will go on to greatness," Pitino said. "You can put it down ... nobody epitomizes the name Kentucky on the front of the jersey like Mark Pope."

Earlier this week, Pope told CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein that he and Pitino were activley trying to set up the series.

“We both want it," Pope said. "Scheduling is sometimes so complicated, so we’re both trying to navigate that. What I really want is, I really want Coach to walk back into Rupp Arena because if there’s anything I’ve learned in the three weeks I’ve been here, could there be a fanbase that loves a coach more than Big Blue Nation loves Coach (Pitino)?” 

St. John's joins Indiana as another non-conference matchup that will begin in the 2025-26 season. The Indiana series was set under former head coach John Calipari.

 “I think every year that goes on, they (the fans) become more and more grateful for what he did here," Pope added. "He’s reached such an iconic status in the view of the fans. I know he knows that, but I just would love him to walk back in this building one time and feel that. It’s just different here than anywhere else."