KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rick Pitino will be losing one of his top lieutenants after the NCAA tournament.
Louisville assistant Kareem Richardson was hired Tuesday as the new coach at UMKC, where he’ll be rebuilding a program that has never qualified for the NCAA postseason and is leaving the Summit League for the Western Athletic Conference next season.
Richardson will be introduced at a news conference Monday, though he’ll remain with the top-seeded Cardinals throughout the NCAA tournament. Louisville opens against North Carolina A&T or Liberty on Thursday in the Midwest Regional in Lexington, Ky.
”It is an honor and privilege to be named the next head coach at UMKC,” Richardson said in a statement issued by the school. ”It had to take a special situation for me to leave.”
Richardson has agreed to a five-year deal that will pay him $250,000 a year. The 38-year-old coach was an assistant at UMKC from 2007-08, and has also been an assistant at Xavier, Drake, Indiana State, Wright State and his alma mater, Evansville.
He takes over for Matt Brown, who was fired after one winning season in five years.
The Roos have struggled to gain traction in Kansas City over the years, dwarfed by mighty Kansas just a short drive to the west. They transitioned from NAIA to Division I basketball in the late 1980s, but have had just one 20-win season since 1985.
Brown had things going the right direction when UMKC went 16-14 two years ago, but the program has backtracked, going 10-21 last year and stumbling to an 8-24 finish this past season.
”Our goal is to win the attention, and the hearts, of Kansas City sports fans,” UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said. ”Kansas City is the best college basketball town in the country, and UMKC is Kansas City’s university. We believe Kareem Richardson can lead a program that will connect with the sports fans of Kansas City.”
The Roos are leaving their longtime home in the Summit League for the WAC next season, where they’ll be joined by Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Idaho, New Mexico State, Seattle, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley in the new-look conference.
UMKC athletic director Tim Hall said that Richardson’s reputation as a recruiter, along with his ties to the region, made him the natural choice to take over a program in transition.
”He has strong relationships with high school and AAU coaches here and throughout the Midwest,” Hall said. ”He brings a high basketball pedigree in the areas of recruiting, on-the-floor coaching, strategy and preparation, and service to young men. Kareem is an educator, and knows what it takes to be successful in the mid-major ranks.”