Last year, when FIU was looking for a new head basketball coach, Norfolk State’s Anthony Evans was a finalist for the position, but the job went to Richard Pitino.
Turns out, Evans only had to wait a year to get the job.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia hired Evans to succeed Pitino as the school’s next basketball coach Monday. He’ll be introduced Tuesday at a 2 p.m. press conference.
Evans is best known for Norfolk State’s first-round win over Missouri in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Spartans’ upset victory marked only the fifth time a No. 15 seeded team had defeated a No. 2 seed in tournament history.
In his six years as the head coach at Norfolk State, Evans amassed a 99-92 record.
While Evans was the favorite to get the job upon Pitino’s departure, FIU also interviewed Florida assistant John Pelphrey, VCU assistant Mike Rhoades and Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli.
A Brooklyn native and a 1994 graduate of New York’s St. Thomas Aquinas College, Evans started his coaching career as an assistant in the community college and Division II ranks.
His first head coaching job came in 1999 when he took over at Ulster County Community College, 90 miles north of Manhattan. In 2001, he became the head coach at SUNY-Delhi.
During those years, Evans earned a reputation for his solid recruiting in New York City. In 2003, Norfolk State head coach Dwight Freeman saw that Big Apple prowess and offered him $25,000 a year to leave the Empire State and join his staff in Virginia.
After four years as an NSU assistant, Evans was named the team’s head coach. NSU athletic director Marty Miller told the Virginian-Pilot that he hired Evans on a hunch.
The hunch worked out. In his first year at the helm, the Spartans had their first winning season in nearly a decade. Steady progress led to NSU’s “One Shining Moment” in 2012, but Evans’ best coaching job was yet to come.
The Spartans lost four starters from the 2011-12 team this past year, but Norfolk State became the first MEAC team in 19 years to go undefeated in conference play. A loss in the conference tournament left them without a return invitation to the NCAA Tournament. They fell in the NIT to Virginia.
Evans signed a contract extension with Norfolk State following the 2012 season which gave him a pay raise to $175,000. FIU is expected to pay Evans $250,000 a year — the same salary Pitino received.
Evans will be FIU’s third coach in three years. Pitino, the son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, was hired from his father’s staff and went 18-14 last season. Minnesota hired him to replace Tubby Smith. He’ll make nearly five times at the Big Ten school what he made at FIU — he signed a six-year contract worth $1.2 million annually.
Garcia lauded Pitino’s work at FIU, saying at a press conference two weeks ago that he had helped right a program that is still trying to dig out of the ditches dug during Isiah Thomas’ coaching tenure.
Thomas’ teams went 26-65, but will be the inherited academic woes from Thomas that will be the most cumbersome for Evans. Garcia admitted earlier this month that it’s unlikely that FIU’s Academic Progress Rate will have improved enough during Pitino’s one year to make the Golden Panthers eligible for postseason play next year.
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