The FIU Athletic Department has begun a national search for its next men’s basketball coach after Richard Pitino accepted the head coaching position at Minnesota on Wednesday, April 3.
“We want to be successful at the highest level,” said Pete Garcia, executive director of sports and entertainment, at a press conference Thursday, April 4. “We want to go to the NCAA Tournament. The bottom line is we want to win and we are going to go looking for the best coach regardless of whether he is here a year or two. I’m hoping the next coach wins 20 games. We are going to go after the best coach and that is not going to be a consideration that we might lose him after a year or two.
“This is a little bit of a bittersweet morning for me and for FIU,” Garcia said. “I want to thank Richard Pitino for taking the job at FIU and the tremendous job that he and his staff did. Richard delivered on everything that he promised. The job that he did here was amazing. It has proven that FIU could be relevant. He got us on the map winning 18 games. What he did with this basketball team and these players, making them believe in something, I’ve never seen a job like that. Minnesota has just landed a great basketball coach. He is a complete package as far as a coach and a leader of men. He leaves us in a lot better shape than he found us. I also want to thank Rick Pitino and all the support that he showed this program and continues to show this program. He communicated to me last night that we still got a game next year and I said ‘You bet, we got a game.’
“Hopefully, the process to find a new coach won’t take more than a week to 10 days,” Garcia continued. “I’m going to lean on Richard, Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, Leonard Hamilton. We are going to get a very good basketball coach that will continue what Richard has built here. He has built a solid foundation for us to continue to build on. I believe 100 percent that we are going to be relevant. We are going to be successful and very good in basketball at FIU. There was a lot of interest in this job a year ago and I can safely say that it has tripled right now.”
The Panthers are coming off the program’s most successful season in 13 years. FIU compiled its first winning season (18-14) in 13 years; produced the most overall victories in 15 years; recorded the most Sun Belt Conference wins (11); and made the program’s first-ever SBC Tournament finals, falling three points shy of earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history.
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