U taps young new coach

Richard Pitino will leave Florida International after one successful year as head coach.
April 04, 2013

Richard Pitino, son of legendary coach Rick Pitino, will be the University of Minnesota’s next head men’s basketball coach.

The University confirmed Wednesday in a release that Richard Pitino and the Gophers have reached an agreement that will be finalized later this week. The announcement ended a nine-day coaching search following the firing of Tubby Smith.

Richard Pitino, 30, led Florida International University as a rookie head coach in 2012-13 to its first winning season since 2000. Pitino was an assistant and later an associate head coach for his father at Louisville, and he was an assistant at Florida before joining FIU less than a year ago.

Talk circulated during the coaching search about “Villa 7,” a program that connects assistant coaches with athletics directors. Gophers associate athletics director Mike Ellis started the program while at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Pitino is not a “Villa 7” graduate, but he learned under legendary coaches such as Florida’s Billy Donovan (national champion in 2006 and 2007) and Rick Pitino (national champion in 1996, six additional Final Four runs).

Teague hired two Florida assistants to be head coaches while he was the athletics director at VCU: Anthony Grant and current VCU coach Shaka Smart. Grant and Smart learned under Donovan just as Richard Pitino did. cbssports.com’s Jeff Goodman reported that Donovan was “key” in the Gophers’ agreement with the young Pitino.

Richard Pitino’s postseason experience under Donovan and Rick Pitino dwarfs many achievements in Gophers basketball history. He made it to the NCAA Final Four as an associate head coach with Louisville in 2011-12. He has also made three Elite Eight appearances, two as an assistant with Louisville in 2008 and 2009 and one as an assistant with Florida in 2011.

Pitino’s departure from Florida International surprised senior guard Manuel Nunez, according to Florida International University Student Media.

“It’s just a shocker that he left, especially with a great recruiting class coming in as well as some of the transfers that are going be playing for us next year,” Nunez told the publication. “We had one of the best seasons in FIU history, and we were going in the right direction.”

The Gophers fired Tubby Smith as their head coach March 25 after six years with the program. Smith led Minnesota to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1997, but Teague and his administration bought out his contract for $2.5 million.

Smith accepted a head coaching position at Texas Tech earlier this week.

Richard Pitino coached against the Gophers once as an assistant with Louisville in 2008-09, and Minnesota won the game 70-64 at a neutral site.

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