Pitino to FIU; Replacement?

Former Louisville assistant Richard Pitino heads to Florida International to replace Isiah Thomas just days after FIU players walked out of their team banquet to protest the firing of Thomas, an NBA legend. Who will Rick Pitino target as a replacement?

Best wishes to former Louisville assistant Richard Pitino, who heads to Florida International to replace Isiah Thomas just days after FIU players walked out of their team banquet to protest the firing of Thomas, an NBA legend.

For Pitino, it's a huge opportunity to step out of his father's shadow and run his own program for the first time. Pitino will have his work cut out trying to turn around a program that went 8-21 this season and finished last in the Sun Belt.

''You know I'm delighted, but I'm going miss (him) terribly,'' Rick Pitino told the Associated Press Sunday. ''I think one of the great things in 35 years of coaching was spending three years with him. Watch him grow as a basketball coach, and you sort of don't want it to end.''

For Rick Pitino, the loss of his top assistant means that Louisville again has an opening on the bench. Richard Pitino handled much of the opponent scouting load during Louisville's run to the Final Four this season, while first year assistants Kevin Keatts and Wyking Jones learned the ropes and focused on recruiting.

''It's his opportunity,'' Pitino said. ''It was his decision, not that I was against it. But I would have loved to been with him a few more years.''

Will Pitino search for a replacement capable of taking up Richard Pitino's scouting role? Or will the future Hall of Fame coach make a play for Jerrance Howard, one of the nation's top unemployed recruiters? If Pitino elects the former route, VCU assistant Will Wade, who Pitino considered last year for an opening on his staff, might again become a prime target. Former South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn is also an interesting name available this spring.


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