MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida International University is hoping the second time is a charm with a big name coach coming into the men’s basketball program.

FIU hired Richard Pitino, son of Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino, as the team’s new head coach. The Panthers had to hire a replacement after the school fired former head coach, Isiah Thomas.

Richard Pitino spent the past season as the associated head coach on Louisville’s staff. The Cardinals reached the Final Four thanks in large part to the coaching job done by the Pitinos.

For Richard, the challenge at FIU is going to be more massive than anything his father Rick has faced. FIU has had 12 straight losing seasons and fired Isiah after posting a 26-65 record in three seasons at the helm.

“You know I’m delighted, but I’m going miss (him) terribly,” Rick Pitino said. “I think one of the great things in 35 years of coaching was spending three years with him. Watch him grow as a basketball coach, and you sort of don’t want it to end.”

Rick Pitino was 25 when he landed his first college coaching job. At 29, his son is about to get his first chance to run a program. The younger Pitino was a candidate to coach at Florida Gulf Coast last year, before deciding to go back to Louisville and work for his father.

Richard Pitino spent the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons under Billy Donovan at Florida, who also raved about FIU’s hire.

“It is great to have Richard back in the state of Florida,” Donovan said. “FIU has hired a tireless worker and an excellent recruiter to build their program.”

Thomas’ firing has created a sense of disarray around the Panthers’ program. Two of Thomas’ verbally committed players said late last week they would play elsewhere because of his dismissal, and an unknown number of FIU players have asked Garcia to be released from their scholarships so they can enroll at other schools. The players say FIU has declined those release requests.

The Panthers were 8-21 this past season.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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