The most pressing question for Rick Pitino's program is what impact Fuller's departure will have on Louisville's recruiting efforts, particularly in 2012 and 2013?
Pitino went outside the box when he hired Fuller to replace Walter McCarty last summer. A former Nike player representative with minimal college coaching experience, Fuller was brought to Louisville for one reason – to stock Pitino's program with talent.
Pitino had hoped Fuller's contacts, Nike and otherwise, would pay dividends for Louisville on the recruiting trail. Immediately after being hired, Fuller positioned Louisville to land Quincy Miller and Duece Bello, two of the nation's top prospects. Though both prospects made official visits to Louisville, neither signed with the Cardinals, opting instead for Baylor.
Fuller did play a major role in Tony Woods' transfer from Wake Forest to Louisville after the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center was dismissed in Winston-Salem after a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. But Fuller's major impact on the recruiting front was expected to come in 2012 and 2013, the two classes he was charged with recruiting.
Fuller's first major recruiting coup was delivering an early commitment from Rodney Purvis, the nation's top-ranked 2012 point guard. Now, the big question for Louisville is whether Rick Pitino can keep Purvis, who starred at the Boo Williams Tournament last weekend in Hampton, Va., in the fold without Fuller on the bench?
At this point, it's simply too early to know whether Purvis will stick with his commitment to Louisville or not. Clearly, Purvis committed to play for Pitino at Louisville, but he did so largely because of Fuller's prior relationship. It's a situation that will merit close monitoring in the coming months.
Fuller's departure won't really impact Louisville on the court next season. Rick Pitino will have one of his most talented and deepest rosters and Fuller wasn't regarded as a developer of talent or master opponent scout. Pitino, though, will miss Fuller's ability to deliver talent for his program, especially with Steve Masiello's departure to Manhattan.
With the losses of Masiello and Fuller, Pitino has watched his two best recruiters leave his program this week. Masiello was responsible for stocking Pitino's program with talent for the past six years, notably landing Earl Clark, Samardo Samuels and Wayne Blackshear. Fuller was expected to carry load after Masiello's departure.
Now, Pitino is starting from scratch heading into the summer AAU season. The Cardinals currently have two commitments from 2012 prospects – Purvis and four-star forward Negus Wester-Chan. Keeping those players in the fold is priority number one for the Cardinals.
Richard Pitino, an assistant at Florida the past two seasons, should help the situation. Pitino, who is rejoining his father at Louisville, is an up and coming assistant nationally who has proven an effective recruiter. He'll likely be charged with holding down the fort until reinforcements arrive.
Still, Pitino must make two critically important staff hires in the coming weeks. It would seem Pitino will be on the hunt for a couple of assistants who can replace Masiello and Fuller's ability to stock his program with talent. Who that will be is the major question.
With his coaching staff in flux, it definitely won't be a uneventful off-season for Rick Pitino.