Richard Pitino to Coach FIU Hoops

Rick Pitino says his son will coach the Golden Panthers

By David Hill
|  Monday, Apr 16, 2012  |  Updated 12:33 PM EDT
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Richard Pitino to Coach FIU Hoops

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Richard Pitino will replace Isiah Thomas (above) as head coach of the FIU men's basketball team.

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Florida International appears to have replaced deposed basketball coach Isiah Thomas with another recognizable name: Pitino.

But it is not legendary coach Rick Pitino coming to South Florida. Instead, his son Richard Pitino will be the next FIU coach.

Rick Pitino said Sunday that Richard will leave his staff at Louisville University to become the next coach at FIU. FIU fired Thomas on April 6 after going 26-65 in three seasons.

FIU refused to confirm that Pitino and the Panthers had agreed on a deal, and players had not yet been told of the move by any school officials as of Sunday afternoon.

"You know I'm delighted, but I'm going miss (him) terribly," Rick Pitino said. "I think one of the great things in 35 years of coaching was spending three years with him. Watch him grow as a basketball coach, and you sort of don't want it to end."

FIU director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia did not return phone calls, text messages and email from the Associated Press seeking comment, and he has not spoken publicly since firing Thomas.

Richard Pitino also did not return messages.

"It's his opportunity," Rick Pitino said. "It was his decision, not that I was against it. But I would have loved to been with him a few more years."

Richard Pitino spent the past season back with the Cardinals and helped them to the Final Four. He was a Louisville assistant from 2007 through 2009, spending the interim two years as an assistant at Florida. He has worked at Duquesne, Northeastern and the College of Charleston.

Pitino was a candidate to coach at Florida Gulf Coast last year, before deciding to go back to Louisville and work for his father.

Thomas' firing has created some chaos at FIU. Two players verbally committed to coming to FIU said late last week they would play elsewhere because of Thomas' firing. Additionally, some current Panthers have asked permission transfer to other schools. The players say FIU has declined those release requests.

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