Pitino focused on future, not concerned with past

Beacon File Photo

Kevin Castaneda/ Staff Writer

FIU men’s basketball new Head Coach Richard Pitino exudes confidence, with his slicked-back hair and piercing eyes, describing himself as hard-working.

“Any time you are given a lot of responsibility and a lot of work, you normally are going to reap great rewards from it if you put in that time,” said Pitino.

This is Pitino’s first job as a head coach. For Pitino, this is just another challenge to add to his repertoire, because he comes to FIU with enough experience. Pitino has been a part of three Elite Eight teams, one Final Four Team and four Conference Titles. Those programs include the University of Louisville and the University of Florida.

He has worked under head coaches Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan, two hall-of-fame caliber coaches.

“I’ve got two mentors in this game and I brag about them all the time. I mean, they’ve been to nine Final Fours, three National Titles and have won over 1,000 games,” said Pitino.

His father, Rick Pitino, has quite the resume. He coached at Boston University, Providence, Kentucky, Louisville, the Puerto Rico National Team and the Boston Celtics. Rick Pitino coached Donovan, while at Providence, to a Final Four.

But Rick Pitino’s son, 30, does not focus on the idea that he has to fill his dad’s shoes. He said that leaving Louisville for UF was one of the best decisions he has ever made.

“I learned more in those two years [in UF] than I had ever learned, because I saw a different side of it. I know what my dad is going to do, I’ve been around him my whole life, but to learn from another guy who is going to be in the hall of fame one day, is something that is invaluable,” Pitino said.

Even with those role models, the most important figure for Pitino in his journey, is his wife Jill.

“I couldn’t be where I am today without my wife. She has moved with me every step of the way. For her to pick up everything and just leave…certainly I couldn’t have done it without her,” said Pitino.

Despite the storm-filled controversy of firing Isaiah Thomas which prompted several FIU players to voice their displeasure and requests to be transferred, Pitino is not worried about the past and is here to put his own stamp on the program.

“We look to the future, we don’t worry about the past,” said Pitino.

He wants his players to get better through weight lifting, conditioning, individual instruction, study hall and class. His main goal is to build a consistent winner every year. Building consistency in the classroom was his first step, and players responded well by reaching a 3.0 GPA in the summer.

He wants a fast style of basketball that is up-tempo and entertaining to watch. If he can get his players in the best shape of their lives, he plans to— literally— run the opponents out of the building.

“It will be a lot of pressing, running, a lot of shooting three’s. So guys are going to need to be in great shape to do that,” said Pitino.

Pitino will be taking this new culture and style to Louisville on Dec. 19 to play against his dad.
He knows the feeling will be strange, considering he worked there for three years.

“It’ll be kind of weird to look down at the other end there and to see him, to coach against him. I’ve been on his team my whole life and now we are on opposing teams,” said Pitino.

Pitino is bringing both youth and experience to a basketball program that sat in the cellar of the East division of the Sun Belt Conference for the majority of the year.

“Now that basketball is coming up, hopefully we can build a good brand and a fun style of playing.”


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