New Gophers coach Richard Pitino did a short radio stint with Jon Rothstein on SiriusXM College Sports Nation’s “The Tim Brando Show” on Wednesday morning and talked about a number of topics, mostly concerning his new job at Minnesota.
Here is some of what he said:
On what he would have said if he had been told 12 months ago – before even taking a head job at Florida International – about now holding a Big Ten gig: “I probably would have laughed at you. It’s funny. It’s interesting how sports happen. The great thing is you just let it come to you, and you just continue to do your job and work extremely hard and do it the right way, and opportunities will normally present themselves to you. I’m extremely lucky, extremely fortunate. It’s been a great year.”
On how last season prepared him for his job with Minnesota now: “This year definitely helped me out a lot. There’s a lot of things that working for guys like my father and Billy Donovan, they can prepare you for an assistant coach through running a program, through doing individual workouts, through preparing practice and so on. But they can’t prepare you for walking those sidelines. It’s just -- you can’t simulate it. So going through this year certainly helped me, prepared me for that. Coaching in big games like the conference championship game or the Middle Tennessee game, coaching on the road. Those are all important things that was a great experience for me.”
On what the coaching search process was like, and when athletic director Norwood Teague reached out: “I don’t know the exact date of the call. I feel like the last few weeks have been such a whirlwind. I’m not sure of the exact date. When Norwood Teague and I spoke, I had known him through Billy Donovan and Shaka Smart and Anthony Grant and those guys. I knew what kind of AD he was and what kind of person he was – I got extremely excited about that. That’s the most important thing with any job you take. Certainly Minnesota is an attractive place, but the people are what make it attractive. We have one of the best fan bases in all of college basketball. We sell out almost every game and we’ve got a historic building that is about a cool a place as I’ve ever seen, and then we’ve got a city that’s one of the most attractive places to be. We have so many things to sell.”
On hiring a staff at Minnesota: “We’ve got to get that right. The staff is key. Every team that you see that wins, normally they have a great staff. So I’ve got to get the right pieces in place and that’s very much a top priority for me right now.” UPDATE: Minnesota announced that former FIU assistants Kimani Young and Mike Balado will join Pitino’s Gophers staff.
On how different his dad, Rick Pitino, and Florida’s Billy Donovan are, and how those situations differed for Richard as an assistant: “A lot different. They’re really two different people. People think they’re pretty similar, but they run their programs differently – not that one way is right and one way is wrong. That’s probably what I learned from working from those two guys is they run it the way they’re comfortable running it. They’re both great – probably two of the best coaches in this game – and they do it their way. It taught me that when I have my own program, I need to do it the way that I’m comfortable with, and they’ve both been extremely influential for me -- Billy, just as much as my father, he has taught me so much, and I keep in touch with them all the time.”
On working for Donovan, specifically: “It changed me. … When I was at Louisville the first time, I just really tried to recruit as hard as possible and do whatever anyone told me to do, my day or whatever it may be. When I came down to Florida, I thought I became a coach because I started thinking differently and started to kind of create my own mindset of how I would run a program. When I went back to Louisville that last year when we went to the Final Four, I was a much more of a confident coach of how I’d like to do things. I’m extremely grateful for Billy Donovan for giving me that opportunity. He certainly has made me the coach I am today as well as my father.”
On the nerves of being in Atlanta and watching the NCAA title game, which his dad and Louisville eventually won: “It was unbelievable. It’s funny, you don’t really don’t get nervous for your games, just because you’re so focused on the game plan and you feel like you have a little bit of control. But when you’re sitting in the stands, you feel like you’ve lost all control. I was so nervous and I was so happy for him. He’s worked so hard. And those players and the staff, I know what they’ve put into it, so I’m so proud of those guys that they can sit back and say ‘Hey we won a national championship’ and they can reflect on that for the rest of their lives.”