Apr 18, 2012New FIU Coach Pitino Begins Recruiting
Miami Herald, David Neal
The introduction of Richard Pitino on Monday afternoon as FIU men’s basketball coach counted as one of those times where the past, present and future seemed interwoven.
As the present, Pitino, son of national championship-winning coach Rick Pitino, talked about how he envisioned the future of FIU basketball, which has had 12 consecutive losing seasons. Next to him, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia fielded questions about the recent past — the April 6 firing of Isiah Thomas and the refusal to release several players from their scholarships.
Soon after Pitino signed, Garcia took him to the Student-Athlete Academic Center and around campus, where Pitino met with several players.
“They’ve got to get to know me, Pitino said. They’re not going to want to play for me without even knowing me. The most important thing for me the first couple of days is to be around these guys as much as possible. They’re going to have to be recruited a little bit. I understand that. I’m fully confident I can do that.”
As for recruiting in state, long a bane of FIU’s basketball programs, Pitino said, “The one thing I love about FIU is there are a lot of players in this state who want to go to FIU. We’ve got to do a great job of recruiting, a great job of preparing these guys on and off the court, in the classroom as well as the community. … It’s going to happen because there are so many great resources at our disposal at FIU.
His most recent coaching stops since graduating from Providence in 2005 were as an assistant under his father at Louisville 2007-2009, 2011-12 and two seasons as assistant under the University of Florida’s Billy Donovan.
“Working for Billy Donovan was the greatest thing I could’ve ever done, Pitino said. I was an assistant under my father and, to be quite honest, I didn’t really want to leave home. Billy reached out to him. At first, I didn’t like the idea. But when I worked for Billy, I learned so much because he wasn’t my father. They have a totally different approach to how to do things.”
Noting the combined nine Final Fours and three NCAA championships between them, Pitino said, “To be able to learn under those two guys, I’m the luckiest man in the world.
The younger Pitino, 29, also is confident that he’s ready for this job.
“I’m young, but I’m not inexperienced, he said.
Asked about a possible FIU-Louisville game on the schedule, he said, He did text me, ‘I never got to spank you as a child, would you like to get a spanking this year?’ I told him, ‘Bring it on.’ Hopefully, we can work something out.”
Pitino has a five-year contract, the same length on the contract Thomas signed. The firing of Thomas and his staff on April 6 after a 26-65 record during three years — and the police escorting his staff in front of FIU staff, athletes and recruits — upset several players and even some local high school coaches.