Steve Masiello lost his job at Manhattan College, he recalled, at 11:37 a.m.
By 12:30 p.m. he was eating lunch with Rick Pitino.
“He said, ‘Whatever you need, I’m here for you. I went through it, it’s a horrible experience and I’m not going to let you go through it,’ ” Masiello told The Post on Wednesday.
Pitino, the Iona coach, wasn’t just there for Masiello emotionally.
With an open position on his staff, he was able to give the former Manhattan coach a job this season, too.
It started with him just standing behind the bench for one game.
A few days later, Pitino hired Masiello as his director of basketball operations.
When one of the three Iona assistants are away recruiting, Masiello is allowed to be on the floor for practice.
On Friday, the two will be in the NCAA Tournament together, as No. 13 Iona looks to upset fourth-seeded Connecticut in a West Region opening-round game in Albany.
It has been a whirlwind of a season for the 45-year-old Masiello.
He was fired on Oct. 25, just two weeks before his 12th season at the MAAC school.
He declined to talk much about Manhattan, other than to say that the reports that he was let go because he was upset about not getting a contract extension were inaccurate.
He’s enjoyed the year at Iona, strange as it may be to coach for his old rival.
“You go from expecting to lead your own to a MAAC title, having visions of that and [being] picked second, to having your professional world taken from you in a matter of seconds. Totally blindsided,” Masiello said. “Iona University and Rick Pitino basically came in and saved my basketball life. And for that, I’ll forever be thankful and indebted to Iona and Coach Pitino.”
Being back with Pitino feels right to him.
The two first met way back in 1989, when Masiello was a Knicks ballboy and Pitino was the team’s coach.
He worked for him from 2005-11 at Louisville, and was part of two Elite Eight teams, developing a reputation as an elite recruiter and strong assistant coach.
He took the Manhattan job in 2011 and reached two NCAA Tournaments by 2015.
The Jaspers lost more games than they won six of the next seven years, but there were high expectations this year in Riverdale.
Manhattan returned MAAC preseason Player of the Year Jose Perez and was picked second in the league before Masiello was fired and Perez promptly transferred to West Virginia.
“Manhattan did Iona the greatest favor in the world, because we got Stevie Mas on our staff, and he did a wonderful job,” Pitino said the night Iona won the MAAC Tournament. “Thank you, Manhattan.”
Masiello would obviously like another chance to be a Division I head coach. For now, though, he’s in no rush.
“Any time you get to work with Rick Pitino, you do that for as long as you can,” Masiello said. “There’s not going to be another Rick Pitino. In my opinion, he’s the greatest basketball mind ever in this game.”