FIU men

FIU Panthers hope new coach Richard Pitino makes name for himself


Richard Pitino Jr. has been around the coaching of his father and Billy Donovan but intends to make his own mark at FIU.

Season outlook

Coach: Richard Pitino Jr. (First season).

Last year: 8-21, lost in first round of Sun Belt tournament.

Top players: 5-9 sophomore PG Deric Hill (1.4 assists per game); 6-5 junior F Tymell Murphy (9.9 pts. per game at South Plains College); 6-2 junior G Malik Smith (13.9 points per game at Jacksonville, Texas, College).

Noteworthy: A new roster with a first-year coach trying to coalesce has five consecutive road games, including two conference games and Louisville, in December.

FIU men’s basketball begins the season with a head coach carrying a name that’s better known than the program or, perhaps, even the school itself. Nothing new there.

What’s new is that FIU is the first opportunity for that coach with the famous name to make a name for himself. Well, that’s new as well as a good chunk of FIU’s roster.

Richard Pitino Jr. knows his name, looks and profession prompt questions and conversation about his father, one of the most successful and well-known basketball coaches of the past 25 years. And he says that he and Louisville’s head coach now talk or text as much as ever.

Yet, one of the most valuable moves his father made was kicking him out of the nest. University of Florida coach Billy Donovan, the star of Pitino the father’s 1987 Final Four team at Providence, called Louisville coach Rick Pitino asking if he had any young recruiters who might want to be an assistant to Donovan. Pitino Sr. suggested Pitino Jr.

“That was the greatest thing I could’ve done. Going down there for two years, learning under somebody else, prepared me to be where I am today,” Pitino said.

Also, it got Pitino familiar with his current home state of recruiting. He likes the talent pool in Florida and figures, if nothing else, just the concept of college in Miami intrigues many a kid in, say, New York.

Pitino said he thinks Malik Smith, 1 6-2 junior college transfer guard, can be one of the best three-point shooters in the Sun Belt Conference, if not the nation. Smith and 6-5 forward Tymell Murphy, who also will probably start, are two of the four junior college transfers coming to FIU this season.

Pitino managed to keep six players from a roster that liked Isiah Thomas so much, they sent a letter to FIU President Mark Rosenberg criticizing all aspects of the firing and walked out of the athletic department’s awards dinner in protest. As of now, one of those six, 5-9 sophomore Deric Hill, will start at point guard.

Sophomore center Joey De La Rosa wanted to stay after considering leaving. Pitino told the 6-11 De La Rosa that he was fine with that, as long as De La Rosa lost 30 pounds and 11 percent body fat from his 270 pounds and 18 percent measurements.

De La Rosa did it the old fashioned way — cutting the Whoppers and Big Macs and exercising more — but the Panthers won’t begin the season with De La Rosa at center. Expect a small, fast, high-pressure FIU team with 6-6 freshman Jerome Frink playing center.

“It’s going to be running, trapping, pressing,” Pitino said. “I rarely want to slow it up and call a play. ... It’s going to be a fun style.”

Sounds like a Pitino team. Richard Pitino says he’d like to coach a team that plays a similar style, although comparisons probably should end there.

“People ask me how am I similar to my Dad,” Pitino said. “I think that’s the silliest question in the world. The guy’s won over 600 games, won a national title and been to six Final Fours. I haven’t won a game yet.”

Read more State Colleges stories from the Miami Herald

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category