Let the games officially begin.
Tonight in Louisville, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino and dad, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino squared off for round one in one of the more unusual pre-game press conferences that there's likely been in college basketball:
Opponent vs. opponent; one podium and two microphones. One minute, they were bragging about their foe. The next minute, firing jabs about each other's tempers, golf games, paychecks -- you name it.
The result was fairly entertaining stuff as I felt the younger Pitino tried to up his game in an attempt to keep up with the funnier elder Pitino (sorry Richard, but it's true).
If you missed it, you should be able to rewatch the full live stream here.
Some of the highlights:
Q: Who will the family members root for?
Rick: Well, Joanne [his wife, Richard's mother]... will sit behind [Richard's] bench, Michael [another son] will sit behind mine and Chris [another son] will go to the highest bidder.
Richard: So many people make a big deal about where Mike and Chris are sitting. I think they care more about who they're going to celebrate with after the game. That's more important to them.
[Fellow siblings Jacqueline and Ryan won't be making the trip because of work].
Q: If you win, are you buying?
Richard: If I win, I'll buy for the whole island.
The younger Pitino joked on his Gophers Weekly radio show on ESPN last night that his athletic director, Norwood Teague was "too cheap" to charter Minnesota all the way to Puerto Rico. Instead, Minnesota flew to Louisville and will hop on the Cardinals' charter tomorrow. He told media earlier that day that the decision was made to save money.
The elder Pitino had a light-hearted jab along those lines for Teague as well, in the form of a story.
Rick: He's really a great guy and I'm so excited he gave Richard the job. But when he won the NIT last year, full of Minnesota people ... we were in this hotel ... and all our family was there and all Minnesota boosters and all the people celebrating. And I found out why Norwood Teague is such a great AD. Because at the end of the night -- and you know, it was a thick bar bill, and food and everything included -- Norwood was nowhere to be found and dad picked up the tab. And that's why he's a great AD the way he saves money. I'm still waiting for that check.
Q: By now, you both know each other so well. What's the difference maker?
Rick: He knows we're going to try to do some different things. We have never played a Triangle and Two [defense], he will not be ready. But we have to play it. Their backcourt is something that must be stopped and I'm going to try it for the first time in my coaching career.
Q: Do you believe him?
Richard: No, I do not.
Q: What was it like to have your dad at the NIT finals last year, behind the bench?
Richard: It kind of brought me back to all the games where we sat behind the bench and lived and died with every possession. It's good for him to go through that every now and then, what we deal with all the time. But it was great. The nice thing about when this game is over, he can start becoming a part of our program again, just like hopefully I'm a little bit of a part of his program. He's been extremely helpful with everything. Regardless of the Xs and Os part, what he's better at than anybody in the country is building a program, the culture of a program, just top to bottom, highly motivated people ....When I have a resource like that, I'd be silly not to use it.
Q: How much golf did you play this summer?
Rick: [Richard] actually won and kicked me pretty good. And then he said, at the end of the summer, he said 'Boy, you had a tough summer.' And then he patted me on the ass and said 'Get used to it.' So I walked away and said 'What did he mean by that? Did he mean golf or other sports as well?'
Rick on Minnesota: I think they've got great experience. Last year, and this year, they'll do it again, they'll play a top-7 schedule. And last year they had some great victories. They were a layup away, against Northwestern, of being an NCAA team last year.
... Louisville is not going to scare their players, certainly. Because they've played a lot of top-10 opponents before. Whether we're top 10 or not remains to be seen. We'll know a little more because we're playing a veteran that's deeper than they were last year.
They're a very underrated team. I watched them play last year, every possession almost, lived and died every possession. They've got a senior backcourt and two outstanding centers, a really good junior college small forward. Their power forward is almost like a three man, he's more of a pick-and-pop kind of guy.
Richard on Louisville: Certainly their starting five is as good as any starting five in the country, and they're young on the bench. Obviously once that bench starts to get some more experience, they could be a very, very complete team and a top team in the ACC. [Power forward] Montrezl [Harrell] is obviously picked a first team All-American for a reason. [Guard] Terry [Rozier] is going to have, hopefully a year where he can explode and then [guard] Chris Jones is playing great basketball and [wing] Wayne [Blackshear] is a veteran and [center] Mangkok [Mathiang] is a solid player as well. So top to bottom, they're as good as any roster we'll face.