Gophers’ Richard Pitino interviews for New Mexico coaching vacancy

Richard Pitino has remained employed as the Gophers men’s basketball coach, but he interviewed for the vacancy at New Mexico over the weekend, sources told the Pioneer Press.

Pitino’s eighth season at Minnesota ended in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, and with a 14-15 record, his team missed the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time. Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle has yet to announce a decision on Pitino’s future.

Pitino interviewed for the job along with former Nebraska coach Tim Miles and Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller, according to multiple reports. Pitino is believed to be the top candidate of New Mexico AD Eddie Nunez, according to Enchantment Sports.

New Mexico deputy AD David Williams told the Albuquerque Journal on Saturday: “The job has not been offered to anybody. We are still having discussions with candidates.”

One potential factor in play is Pitino’s buyout at Minnesota, which stands at $1.75 million due to the coach if he is fired before April 30. Pitino’s contract calls for buyout payments to run routinely through he end of his deal in 2024.

But if Pitino has another job lined up, the Gophers might be able to negotiate that dollar figure down. A possible settlement would be a welcomed development with the U swallowing pandemic-inflicted financial losses over the last year. Gophers officials previously said the revenue loss could be $40 million or more.

Pitino has ties to Nunez through former Florida coach Billy Donovan, who now coaches the Chicago Bulls. Pitino was an assistant coach under Donovan at Florida in 2009-11, while Nunez played under Donovan with the Gators from 1996-98 and then was a graduate assistant in Gainesville until 2000.

New Mexico let go of coach Paul Weir after his fourth season ended at New Mexico this spring. He went 6-16 this season and 58-63 overall in Albuquerque. One of Pitino’s former U assistants, Dan McHale, has been on the Lobos staff for the last two seasons.

Pitino’s record with the Gophers is 141-123, including 54-94 in Big Ten play. His current contract extension was signed after his second NCAA Tournament team made it to the second round in 2019.

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