Is Pitino the next Donovan assistant out the door?

At one point in his career, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan was an up-and-coming assistant coach, learning under then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for six years (1989-1994) before moving on to his first head job with Marshall (1994-1996).

Since 2002, Donovan has lost four of his own assistants to head coaching gigs across the country, and three have done so well that they moved on to bigger and better programs. In 2002, John Pelphrey departed to take over South Alabama (he is now head coach at Arkansas). Anthony Grant was hired by Virginia Commonwealth in 2006 (he is now leading Alabama). A year later, Donnie Jones took off for Marshall (he was just hired by Central Florida).

Also departing the Gators in that time were Shaka Smart (who took over for Grant at VCU), Tim Maloney (who floated around but is now associated head coach at Massachusetts) and Tom Ostrom (who traveled with Pelphrey to USA and then Arkansas). Even former Florida guard Brett Nelson earned personnel gigs, working as director of basketball operations at Colorado State and VCU (under Grant) before becoming an assistant coach when Jones joined Marshall in 2007.

With Donovan’s coaching tree branching out at a Pitino- and Dean Smith-like pace, it should be no surprise that another one of his assistants is garnering plenty of attention for some college basketball head coaching job openings.

Richard Pitino, who joined the Gators’ staff this season as an assistant partially for his recruiting prowess, is a name being tossed around in rumors about various job openings including Jones’ vacant seat at Marshall, the top spot at Iona, a job with Wagner and the recently available position with Holy Cross.

The younger Pitino’s previous experience was as an assistant coach at Northeastern and Duquesne as well as under his father at Louisville; his name recognition and ability to recruit make him a valuable commodity for a smaller program.

No interviews have been requested and no offers have been made (that we know of), but often times – especially with college coaching jobs – when there’s smoke, there’s fire.

04/02 UPDATE: Pitino has been interviewed by Iona.

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