Rick Pitino’s top priority to improve at St. John’s


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As Rick Pitino discussed with St. John’s administrators how they could build a winner together, his priority wasn’t Name, Image and Likeness or improving facilities. It wasn’t talent, either.

“The most important thing I told them is what you don’t have, and what you have to have, is culture,” Pitino told The Post shortly after he accepted the head-coaching job at the Queens school Monday. “You don’t have culture, and that’s what has to happen first. You have to develop a culture with your basketball program.”

Pitino wasn’t saying that means the Johnnies’ roster has to be completely altered, but he didn’t say it will stay the same either.

The expectation is there will be major changes after a second consecutive poor season led to Mike Anderson’s ouster, although keeping standout center Joel Soriano is a priority.

Rick Pitino

Two players — Rafael Pinzon and Andre Curbelo — were suspended at points this past season, and Dylan Addae-Wusu was held out of a loss to Iowa State for disciplinary reasons.

There hasn’t been any player movement since the end of the season, but that may not last long.

Pitino is planning to meet or speak with players and advisers over the next few days, and begin to formulate plans for his roster.

“If kids are not willing to go to class, if kids are not willing to be totally respectful, then they need to move on,” Pitino said. “If they are totally bought into going to class and getting an education and they’re totally on board with being respectful to everybody involved, they’ll get serious consideration to being part of the team. Anybody who is not respectful and doesn’t have what I call St. John’s dignity, they won’t be part of the team.”

Pitino told his returning players at Iona he hopes they stay together and play for whomever is the next coach.

He isn’t familiar with St. John’s three incoming recruits, four-star forward Brandon Gardner of Christ the King, junior college All-American Yaxel Lendeborg and unranked high school guard Harrison Reede.

Pitino plans to learn about them in the coming days.

“I’ve got to speak to them, I’ve got to watch film [of them],” he said. “I want to make sure they can play in the style of play I coach, I want to make sure they understand the style of play, understand the commitment.”

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