On April 15, 2012, Richard Pitino left his position as the associate head coach at the University of Louisville to become the head coach at FIU. With only six players remaining from the previous season, and not all of them on scholarship, Pitino cobbled together a team and coached a high-pressure defense that finished eighth in the nation in steals. He was able to compile an 18-14 record (11-9 in the Sun Belt conference) in his only season as head coach. His FIU team set a record for the best conference record in school history. Additionally, FIU reached the Sun Belt Tournament Championship game as a four seed, before falling to Western Kentucky, 65-63.
FIU men's basketball team had its lone NCAA Tournament appearance in the 1995 tournament under then Head Coach Bob Weltlich. FIU won the TAAC Basketball Tournament and in doing so earned an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. FIU was seeded #16 and played the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins in the first round of the West Regional, which was played at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. The Panthers lost the game to the Bruins by the score of 92–56, being the first tournament win in UCLA's successful run to the National Championship that year.