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Updated: April 3rd, 2013 2:07pm
The search is over: Richard Pitino is new Gophers basketball coach

The search is over: Richard Pitino is new Gophers basketball coach

The Gophers' nine-day search for a head basketball coach is over.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday afternoon the Gophers have finalized a deal with Richard Pitino, son of legendary coach Rick Pitino and head coach at Florida International.

The "U" confirmed late Wednesday afternoon Pitino has been selected as the finalist and contract terms will be finalized later in the week.

Hired by Florida International in April 2012, Pitino inherited a floundering program that had only three scholarship players on its roster and had not posted a winning record in 13 years.

Despite FIU's shortcomings, the Golden Panthers finished 18-14, falling to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference final on March 11.

Pitino, 30, was an assistant at Florida under coach Billy Donovan from 2009 to '11. Donovan and Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague have a close relationship.

While working as Virginia Commonwealth's athletic director, Teague hired two of Donovan's assistants to head up the men's basketball program -- Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart.

Pitino was also an assistant for his father at Louisville from 2007 to '09 and then for another season in 2011. Prior to being hired at Louisville, he held assistant jobs at Northeastern (200-06) and Duquesne (2006-07).

He has a $250,000 buyout in his contract with FIU, according to a story on the Florida International University Student Media website.

The Gophers remained silent about the progress of their search since it began on March 25 after the firing of coach Tubby Smith after six seasons.

Numerous names entered and exited the discussion of candidates throughout the search, including Smart, Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg, Gophers alum and former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders and now-USC coach Andy Enfield.

Pitino didn't publicly surface as a heralded possibility until Wednesday morning.

Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, whose senior season ended on March 24 with a loss to Florida in the NCAA tournament, took to Twitter to offer his congratulations on the hire.

"Congrats Coach Pitino on becoming the new Coach. Look forward to watching you do great things at the U," Mbakwe tweeted.

Pitino will become the 17th head coach in the Gophers' 117-year history. At 30-years old, he is the program's second-youngest coach. L.J. Cooke was 29 when he officially became the first head coach of the Gophers in 1898.

Pitino is following a similar coaching path as his father. Rick Pitino was 26 when started his first full-time head coaching position with Boston University (1978-83). The elder Pitino has gone on to coach six other teams, and has his current Louisville squad one win away from reaching the NCAA tournament championship game.

The Gophers are coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance and first tourney win since 1997. But their exit in the Round of 32 came after the stumbled through Big Ten play without a winning conference record for the eighth straight season, finishing 8-10 and 21-13 overall.

In six seasons under Tubby Smith, the Gophers went 124-81, with three NCAA tournament and two NIT appearances.

One of Pitino's first tasks with the Gophers will be to stabilize the team's incoming recruiting class. Alvin Ellis, who had committed to Minnesota last September, was granted release from his Letter of Intent on Wednesday. There is a possibility Ellis could recommit to the Gophers, but he is expected to sort through his options first.

Ellis' decommitment leaves the Gophers with only one recruit in their 2013 class, forward Alex Foster.

Minnesota is set to return three of its starters next season -- Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman. The Gophers graduated four players last season, including Mbakwe and forward Rodney Williams.

Pitino will also be expected to continue the Gophers' pursuit of the "big three" high school recruits in the state of Minnesota. Apple Valley high school's Tyus Jones, Robbinsdale-Cooper's Rashad Vaughn and DeLaSalle's Reid Travis are all being recruited by multiple major-conference teams.

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