It was January when Florida International athletic director Pete Garcia started to worry.
His coach was successful — as in he’s-going-to-be-leaving-too-soon successful.
Sure enough, at the end of the season, at least one school was knocking on Richard Pitino’s door.
Garcia said Minnesota first reached out to Pitino this Monday, and his young coach approached him with both excitement and skepticism.
“He was flattered,” Garcia said. “He was flattered by the attention that Minnesota showed him. He called me and he said, ‘I don’t even think anything is going to happen with this.’ I said ‘Well, don’t underestimate yourself.’ ”
The Rutgers job opened up in the early hours of Wednesday, but by that point, Pitino already had interviewed and had his eyes set on Minnesota if it wanted him.
Sure enough, Pitino soon was being reported as the new Gophers men’s basketball head coach.
“The AD at Florida International was awesome,” Richard Pitino’s father, Rick, told reporters at the Final Four on Thursday. “Pete Garcia said, ‘Richard, you need to go. It’s been too short, but that’s a Big Ten job.’ … So he was great, and I was appreciative of that, too.”
FIU assistant coming
Nothing has yet been formally announced regarding Pitino’s new staff at Minnesota, but Garcia confirmed FIU assistant Kimani Young would be joining his former coach at Minnesota.
It is unknown whether Pitino will look for the rest of his staff from his past or try to draw more on the one he put in place at FIU.
“I think he’s talked to all of them,” Garcia said. “It’s a really good staff. I think he has a plan for most of them. … But I would love for my new coach to keep a couple of guys here.”