Like father like son, Richard Pitino is following in Daddy’s footsteps.
While his father is leading his Louisville Cardinals into the final four, Richard is close to signing a deal to be the next coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, according to Andy Katz of ESPN.com. Pitino would be stepping in for Tubby Smith, who was fired last week and is now the head coach for Texas Tech.
Pitino isn’t only getting the attention of popular programs because of his name, though. He coached Florida International to an 18-14 overall record and an 11-9 record in the Sun Belt conference. Pitino was on the verge of heading to the NCAA tournament, but his team fell to Western Kentucky in the conference tournament championship game.
Minnesota is ready to take a big step with their basketball program and Pitino appears to be the best available option at head coach. Pitino has coached as an assistant for his dad at Lousiville and also worked for head coach Billy Donovan at Florida.
It should be noted that Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague gave another assistant coach, Shaka Smart, a head coaching gig while he was still with Virginia Commonwealth. That hiring seems to have worked out well for both parties.
Sources leaked that Pitino, 30, met with Minnesota officials on Wednesday and have stated that a deal should be done soon.
This deal makes sense for Minnesota. Pitino has the experience of a qualified Big 10 coach and Teague should be able to sign the coach to a fairly inexpensive deal. Teague has taken chances on many young coaches in the past, each of which have panned out well. His reasoning for Pitino obviously goes much deeper than than the coach’s tenure at FIU.
John Engel is a Pac-12 college basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM in Los Angeles. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.