Gophers fire Richard Pitino after eight seasons

Richard Pitino’s tenure as head coach of Gopher men’s basketball is over. University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle announced Pitino’s firing on Monday night.

Pitino’s release, which seemed imminent after the team finished its season on a seven-game losing streak that dropped them out of NCAA Tournament consideration, ends Pitino’s eight-year run as the Gophers head coach.

Coyle issued the following statement along with the announcement:

"I recently met with Richard and told him that we were moving in a different direction. Richard is a tremendous person and coach, and I want to thank him, Jill and their family for their commitment to Minnesota. We wish them well in their next endeavor.

"Decisions like this are never easy, but after evaluating this season and the previous eight years of our program under Richard, it is clear to me that new leadership is needed. We have one of the best practice facilities in the nation, a historic competition venue and a state that produces top-caliber talent. This is an extremely attractive job, and we will immediately start a nationwide search for our next head coach."

Coyle is expected to discuss the move with media on Tuesday morning.

Pitino’s contract calls for a $1.75-million buyout based on the timing of his release, however there is offset language in the contract that allows the University to recoup some of the buyout should Pitino land a new job. He is required to seek "comparable employment" as a condition of the buyout.

His contract with the University states:

"As a condition to receipt of any payment under Section 3.2, Coach is required to mitigate the University’s obligations under Section 3.2 by making reasonable and diligent efforts (under the circumstances and opportunities then prevailing) to obtain a comparable employment position as soon as practicable following termination of employment. Payments shall cease as of the date Coach accepts comparable employment. ?

"Payments shall also cease if Coach fails to make reasonable and diligent mitigation efforts. Comparable positions include, but are not necessarily limited to, head coach of a Division I NCAA basketball program, head or assistant coach of a professional basketball program, administrator or director of a Division I NCAA basketball program, commentator for a national broadcasting company, etc."

The Albuquerque Journal reported Pitino interviewed with the University of New Mexico about their vacant head coaching position over the weekend.?

Pitino had a 159-137 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in his eight seasons at Minnesota.

He was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in the 2016-17 season after a 24-10 campaign – his best season by win percentage at the U which ended in a fourth place finish in the conference.

However, Pitino’s overall record in the Big Ten was 54-96. The Gophers finished seventh or worse in the Big Ten in seven of his eight years.

Pitino came to Minnesota after spending his first season as a head coach at Florida International.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this report indicated Pitino’s overall record in the Big Ten was 48-82. This has been corrected to 54-96.