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Minnesota hires Richard Pitino

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Richard Pitino was regarded as one of the nation’s up-and-coming young coaches at Florida International and comes with a last name that draws immediate respect in all corners of college basketball.

That combination was too good for Minnesota to pass up.

Pitino has agreed to take over for the fired Tubby Smith, the university announced Wednesday. Athletic director Norwood Teague said the final terms of the contract would be worked out as the week goes on and Pitino was expected to be introduced by Friday.

In his lone season at Florida International, the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino led the Panthers to an 18-14 record, the school’s first winning season in 13 years. He turns 31 in September, fitting the profile of a rising star Teague has preferred to hire in the past.

Smith, who was fired last week after six seasons at Minnesota, was hired Monday at Texas Tech.

In the end, Pitino’s pedigree and connections to another top coach in Florida’s Billy Donovan may have sealed the deal and assuaged any concerns about a relative lack of head coaching experience. Teague hired Smart off Donovan’s staff, and the charismatic young coach took VCU to the Final Four. Before Smart, Teague worked with Anthony Grant, another former assistant of Donovan’s.

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