Although Pitino has often run afoul of N.C.A.A. rules over his long career, there is no indication that Iona, which is scheduled to play No. 2 Alabama on Saturday, held a surreptitious practice without the consent of tournament organizers. Indeed, Iona, which arranged its practice time with the N.C.A.A., publicized the workout on its Twitter account late Sunday, not long after Pitino mentioned plans for it during a videoconference with reporters.
Instead, it appears that at least one school in the 68-team field was able to benefit from a rule change that was not widely known.
The Gaels reached their fifth straight N.C.A.A. tournament on Saturday when they defeated Fairfield, 60-51, in Atlantic City, N.J. The team soon headed to the airport there, where a delay kept them grounded for about an hour beyond their scheduled departure for Indianapolis.
Aboard an Allegiant Air flight that routed the Gaels over the Delmarva Peninsula before a turn westward, the team arrived in Indiana as the time neared 1 a.m. Eastern. They went by bus to a hotel, arriving close to 2 a.m., around the time that clocks moved forward for daylight saving time.
Members of Iona’s travel party immediately submitted to testing in exchange for red wristbands, which signified that they had not been cleared for team activities, before heading to individual hotel rooms on an otherwise unoccupied floor.
Ensconced in their rooms until Sunday afternoon, players, coaches and staff members self-administered nasal swab tests at around 3 p.m. The specimens went into vials, which in turn went into envelopes that were sealed with a sticker. Then Iona players and employees received blue wristbands to indicate that they had been tested again but that results were pending.
About four hours later, Iona’s travel party learned via a mobile app that their tests had returned negative results, and members were given credentials with the name of the hotel and the arenas where they could be for practices or games. A few hours later, the Gaels were practicing at the facility of the Indiana Fever of the W.N.B.A.