Rich Pitino hired as basketball coach as U of M's top recruit decommits [UPDATE]

Alvin Ellis was the Gophers' top basketball prospect, but now he's headed to greener and more stable pastures.
Alvin Ellis was the Gophers' top basketball prospect, but now he's headed to greener and more stable pastures.

-- Update at bottom of post --

The Gophers are rumored to have interest in hiring Florida International coach (and son of Rick Pitino) Richard Pitino as their next head basketball coach. Of course, athletic director Norwood Teague's previous interest in Shaka Smart, Fred Hoiberg, Flip Saunders, and Brad Stevens has gone unrequited (Norwood finally got his coach -- see update at bottom).

SEE ALSO: Sid Hartman blasts Gophers AD Norwood Teague over Tubby Smith firing

But as Norwood's search continues deep into its second week, the basketball program today paid its first tangible price for the delay, as top recruit Alvin Ellis asked for and received his release from a letter of intent he signed to play for Tubby and the Gophers.

Ellis is a senior shooting guard at Chicago's De La Salle high school. In a report about his decommitment, Chicago Hoops writes that Ellis "decided to get out of his commitment after the dismissal of Head Coach Tubby Smith." Chicago Hoops describes Ellis as "one of the top prospects in Illinois and [he] immediately becomes the best player available in the state."

"He is also one of the top prospects remaining nationally," Chicago Hoops continues. "The shooting guard will have multiple high major offers within the next few days."

According to the Pioneer Press's Marcus Fuller, "Ellis said he could not wait any longer to see who the next coach would be. Minnesota is still a possibility."

Here's what Ellis himself had to say about the situation:

Ellis's decommitment means the Gophers have just one new recruit still committed to play for them next year:  Alex Foster, a power forward who is also from Chicago.

But if only Ellis would've waited another day! Even as this is written, momentum seems to be building toward the Pitino hiring. From a Louisville sports reporter (Rick Pitino is head coach at University of Louisville):

Of course, last Friday we thought momentum was building toward the hiring of native son Flip Saunders for the U of M job, and we all know how that turned out.

:::: UPDATE ::::

Norwood's nine-day search is over. According to CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman -- the same reporter who broke the Tubby Smith firing story -- the U has reached a verbal agreement with the aforementioned Richard Pitino.

From Goodman:

Sources told that Rick Pitino's son, who led Florida International to 18 victories in his first season as a head coach, has agreed to a deal to replace Smith with the Gophers...

Richard Pitino, 30, was previously an assistant to his dad at Louisville and at Florida with Billy Donovan.

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