MIAMI — Richard Pitino has been hired to replace Isiah Thomas at Florida International, signing his contract Monday afternoon to take over a program that has not posted a winning season in 12 years.
The 29-year-old Pitino is the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The younger Pitino spent this past season as Louisville’s associate head coach under his father, helping the Cardinals reach the Final Four.
FIU called a news conference for later Monday to announce the move. Terms of the contract were not immediately released, though as a public university FIU eventually will have to make them available.
”I can’t wait to get started,” Richard Pitino said in a statement. ”I will pour my heart and soul into this program. FIU and the South Florida community are extremely attractive to student-athletes. I know we have a lot to offer both in classroom and on the court. The sky is the limit with this university.”
Thomas was fired by the Panthers on April 6 after going 26-65 in three seasons, including 8-21 this past season.
Richard Pitino spent the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons under Billy Donovan at Florida, who also raved about FIU’s hire.
”It is great to have Richard back in the state of Florida,” Donovan said. ”FIU has hired a tireless worker and an excellent recruiter to build their program.”
Richard Pitino was a Louisville assistant from 2007 through 2009 and has worked at Duquesne, Northeastern and the College of Charleston.
Thomas’ firing has created a sense of disarray around the Panthers’ program. Two of Thomas’ verbally committed players said late last week they would play elsewhere because of his dismissal, and an unknown number of FIU players have asked Garcia to be released from their scholarships so they can enroll at other schools. The players say FIU has declined those release requests.