Pitino accepts job on Florida staff

Updated: April 20, 2009, 1:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan turned to his mentor to help stabilize his coaching staff.

Donovan hired Louisville coach Rick Pitino's son, Richard, as an assistant Monday. Richard Pitino spent the last two years working in a similar position under his father after stints at Duquesne (2006-07), Northeastern (2005-06) and College of Charleston (2004-05).

ESPN.com reported on Friday that Pitino would be joining Florida's staff.

He replaces Shaka Smart, who left Florida to take the head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth. Smart became the fourth assistant to leave Donovan's staff in the last three years, following Anthony Grant, Donnie Jones and Lewis Preston. Donovan said last week the coaching turnover was more troubling than all the players deciding to leave the program.

"Players come and go. That happens all the time in every program around the country," he said. "People move and change all the time. That's kind of the way it is. But what's probably been more difficult for me than anything is the amount of coaching turnover the last four years. Someone constantly coming in new and trying to balance the recruiting and who you want to go after. That has been really challenging."

Donovan hopes Pitino will stick around.

Moving out of his father's shadow, the 26-year-old Pitino will try to help the Gators return to the NCAA tournament after two years in the NIT and after plenty of roster turnover. The Gators have lost seven players -- four transferred, two jumped to the NBA and one recruit asked for his release -- in the past year.

"I've known Richard his whole life," Donovan said. "I feel like we're getting a terrific recruiter, basketball coach and person. We're also getting somebody that understands our program and system because of the similarities between what we do and what Louisville does."

Louisville went 58-15 during Pitino's two seasons on staff, including a 30-6 record in the Big East and a conference championship this past season.

"Richard and I have been talking this possibility over for the last two weeks," Rick Pitino said. "Billy is like a son to me and there's no other person in the country that I would rather have Richard work with than him. We both agree that this is a unique opportunity for Richard to develop his own identity while helping Billy build his program back to national prominence."

Richard Pitino graduated from Providence College in 2005. He spent two of his years there working as a manager for the basketball team. He also served as an assistant coach at St. Andrew's School in Barrington, R.I., for two seasons.

He said he was excited to help Donovan try to turn things around at Florida.

"I've known him my whole life and feel like he's a part of our family," Pitino said. "Moving on will give me an opportunity to be a part of another one of the nation's top programs, and I'm thrilled to work with one of the best coaches in the nation as well."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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