Entering the 2017-18 season, Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino had high hopes, with his team coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.
“I thought we were going to knock it out of the park last year,’’ Pitino said Wednesday during the Gopher Road Trip to St. Cloud and Brainerd. “Obviously, we did not do that with injuries and so on.’’
Two big losses in particular — the suspension of Reggie Lynch and Amir Coffey’s shoulder injury — helped doom Minnesota to a 15-17 overall record and 4-14 Big Ten finish after a 13-3 start to the season.
Pitino, however, sees big things for the upcoming season: “I’ll tell you what: The team we have coming up I think is our most talented team.It’s got our most depth.’’
Pitino pointed to the return of senior Jordan Murphy, whom he said, “will probably go down as one of the best players to ever play at the University of Minnesota,’’ along with the return to health of Coffey, guard Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry, the maturation of point guard Isaiah Washington, and the addition of graduate transfer Brock Stull from Milwaukee. In addition, incoming freshmen Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Omersa and Gabe Kalscheur have the coach upbeat.
“Daniel Oturu is one of the best high school seniors in the country, Jarvis Omersa is probably the most athletic kid that I’ve ever coached, and Gabe Kalscheur is just a winner who puts the ball in the basket,’’ Pitino said.
All about Lindsay
Lindsay Whalen, the Gophers’ new women’s basketball coach and Lynx point guard, couldn’t make the road trip because of her WNBA duties. But a video of her addressing the crowd drew big applause in both St. Cloud and Brainerd.
New men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko, hired in March shortly before Whalen, realized quickly how popular the former Gophers guard is with fans.
“They named me coach, Gopher hockey’s big, I get a lot of interviews, I’m on TV a lot, on the radio a lot. I’m becoming a pretty big thing in the state,’’ Motzko said at the stop at Cragun’s Legacy Course in Brainerd. “Then a week later, they hire Lindsay Whalen. And I’m not so big anymore.’’