FIU executive director for sports and entertainment Pete Garcia tends to keep close counsel on his most recent coaching searches. Richard Pitino didn’t leak until the day before his hire as men’s basketball coach. Football’s Ron Turner appeared out of nowhere as if a cloaking device suddenly failed.
So when looking at who might succeed Pitino as men’s basketball coach, you might want to follow the trail of the unofficial search subcommittee. Garcia said he’ll solicit advice from Pitino, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Florida coach Billy Donovan and Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton.
Odds are both Pitinos and Billy Donovan know more than a little something about Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, a Bronx-raised Dominican Republic native who has been on major-college staffs for 10 seasons. After five seasons at Pitt, where he played, Antigua’s spent the past five seasons on John Calipari’s staffs at Memphis and Kentucky.
A public records search says Antigua makes $250,000 per season, which is what Richard Pitino made in his one season at FIU. Antigua would be going from one of the most passionate college basketball fan bases and one of the nation’s most storied programs to an apathetic fan base and a program with as many NCAA appearances all-time as Kentucky has national championships during the Barack Obama presidency.
Then again, Richard Pitino made a similar transition a year ago, from Louisville to FIU.
If Garcia was serious about wanting a coach who will retain the pressure style Pitino brought with him, Virginia Commonwealth’s Mike Rhoades would seem worth a phone call to gauge interest. The “Havoc” defense VCU employs pushed it to No. 1 in the nation in steals and turnover margin, a 27-9 record and a second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
Also, though only 40, Rhoades brings 10 years of college head coaching experience. Granted, that experience came at Division III Randolph-Macon, where Rhoades’ teams went 197-76 before he left in 2009 to be Shaka Smart’s assistant at VCU. On Rhoades’ official VCU biography page, Smart compares his “intensity on the floor” to that of Donovan.