Report: Richard Pitino Finalizing Deal to Become Minnesota Gophers Head Coach

Mark MillerCorrespondent IApril 3, 2013

Could 30-year old Richard Pitino lead a youth movement at Williams Arena?
Could 30-year old Richard Pitino lead a youth movement at Williams Arena?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When the University of Minnesota made the decision to fire Tubby Smith after a six-year tenure with the Gophers, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that athletic director Norwood Teague and his assistants had someone essentially lined up for the job.

More than a week later, it's become clear that Teague wasn't that close to replacing Smith right off the bat, but his methodology has been unwavering to say the least.

Gopher fans were surely disappointed to see that his former ties with VCU head coach Shaka Smart weren't enough to lure him north, but in the end, it's hard to believe that many truly believed we'd see "Tubby Town" turn to "Shaka-ville".

After that, however, the picture seemingly got bleaker in the eyes of the Golden Gopher faithful with former Minnesota Timberwolf Fred Hoiberg, Butler head coach Brad Stephens, Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield, and even Gopher alum Flip Saunders all declining any opportunity with Minnesota.

Today there appeared to be a renewed sense of optimism on campus as Florida International University head coach Richard Pitino's name quickly emerged as a target of Teague and the Gophers.

The story developed quickly, and now just a few hours after we first heard the news, ESPN's Andy Katz is now reporting that Pitino and the Gophers are finalizing a deal that will make him the team's head coach.

The son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, Richard Pitino spent years as an assistant under his father before heading to Gainesville, Florida where he was an assistant under Billy Donovan.

He returned to Louisville in 2011 where he assumed a role as an assistant head coach, but made the move to FIU shortly after Isaiah Thomas was relieved of his duties.

An 18-14 season might not seem like the most prolific of first seasons as a head coach, but when you consider the fact that the Panthers hadn't had a winning season in more than a decade and lost a number of scholarship players after Thomas' ouster, it seems far more impressive.

At just 30 years of age, Pitino is one of the youngest head coaches in the country, something that the Gophers front office would likely embrace as their inquiries have trended far younger than Tubby Smith (although Flip Saunders bucked that trend temporarily).

After dismissing Smith following a season that carried with it a great deal of potential, the Gophers had to make sure they make the right hire this spring as they enter one of the most crucial recruiting periods in the basketball program's history, with three of the top 50 recruits in the country hailing from the twin cities.

Hiring Pitino probably won't make every Gopher fan happy, but Teague knows the collegiate basketball landscape better than most administrators in the country and has earned the right to be trusted with major decisions until proven otherwise.