Gophers hire FIU’s Pitino to replace Smith

MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers finally have their basketball coach.

More than a week after firing Tubby Smith, the University of Minnesota has agreed to hire Richard Pitino as the next men’s basketball coach, according to the school. Pitino spent this year as the head coach at Florida International and is the son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.

The 30-year-old Pitino spent three seasons as an assistant on his dad’s staff at Louisville, including as the associate head coach during the 2011-12 season. Before that, he served as an assistant with Florida from 2009-11. Pitino was also an assistant coach at Duquesne, Northeaster and the College of Charleston. He replaced Isiah Thomas at FIU and went 18-14 overall and 11-9 in the Sun Belt Conference in his lone season at the helm.

According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, the Gophers were going to interview Arizona State assistant Eric Musselman, but Musselman was told not to meet with the school because Minnesota already had its head coach.

Pitino inherits a Gophers team that finished 21-13 overall and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota won its opening-round game against UCLA but lost in the second round to Florida. One day later, Smith was fired after six seasons as the head coach.

Ironically, Smith replaced Rick Pitino at Kentucky, and now Richard Pitino replaces Smith in Minnesota. Richard Pitino is 31 years younger than the 61-year-old Smith.

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