For those of you who aren't aware, the University of Minnesota athletic department recently planned a series of tours across the state to connect with fans and fundraise, the most recent stint of which was just completed on Tuesday.
Since everyone can't get out and travel along with the Golden Gophers crew (myself included), I thought I'd help share some of what new coach Richard Pitino had to say on Monday in Byron -- recorded thanks to colleague Joe Christensen, who was in attendance.
Full audio of his short talk is here.
A lot of what was said was predictable. Pitino smartly lauded Minnesota fans as unique, saying:
"These things mean a lot for me because I didn't grow up here and I haven't spent a lot of time in the state. So for me to be able to meet all you people is really really important -- for me to understand how important this whole athletic program and all of these programs are to you guys. That's the unique thing. I tell everybody this everywhere I go -- this place is so unique from where I worked in Louisville or at the University of Florida. And the reason is, there's no division of fan bases in this state."
He called Norwood Teague the "best athletic director in the country," he gave a shout out to his staff, and he pumped his fast-paced, fun-to-watch style.
The most interesting, however, was listening to how he characterized the players in going through the roster.
It's clear by listening to Pitino that he has a very amiable sense of humor. Before delving into comments on the individual players, the coach paused saying "I haven't checked my phone, someone may have transferred or whatever it may be, failed out."
Here's just a little bit of what he said about each player:
Austin Hollins -- "I think he's going to have a great year. I think he had a really good year last year. I'm excited about him. I think he's going to be a very, very good player for us and he'll be a major impact guy for us."
Maverick Ahanmisi -- "I won't try to pronounce his last name. Mav is a guy that will play a couple positions for us. The great thing about Mav is he can shoot the basketball and that's extremely, extremely important for how we want to play."
Malik Smith -- "He's a one-year kid for us who was at FIU, there's these new rules, you can bring in a guy for one year and then you get rid of him -- it's great, I wish we could do that with all of them, but we won't. Malik is a great kid, he knows our system, he knows our style, he's probably as good of shooter in the country from the 3-point line."
Deandre Mathieu -- "Lightning fast. You guys will love watching him. He will probably drive me crazy but he's entertaining."
Elliott Eliason -- Currently studying abroad with Andre Hollins as part of the Carlson Business School. "I have a competition with him that I can do more pushups than him and I'm positive that I can do it right now. We did it the other day, I beat him 5 to 4 (joking) and he's going to continue to improve. I think Elliott is going to be a great player for us, he just has no muscle on him."
Andre Hollins -- "I think Andre is the epitome of a student-athlete. He's not just about basketball. ... He's going to be successful whether or not it's on the court or in the business world at some point in his life. He's a special, special kid and a really good player."
Oto Osenieks -- "He will play a little bit at the forward spot for us, the 4, the 3, whatever it may be."
Mo Walker -- "He's lost 20 pounds since I took the job and he's probably got to lose about 30 more. And we don't start until October, so we're going to get there eventually."
Wally Ellenson -- "He is in the nationals for the high jump -- that's top-15 in the country. ... I had no idea he was even good at it, and he's shown he's as good as anyone out there. So you never know, he could surprise somebody and win it all. He's surprised us to this day, so hopefully he can surprise me on the court as well."
Daquein McNeil -- "He is a guy that I think is a guy I think is going to be very good down the road. He's got potential, he can play multiple positions, fit really well with our style.
Charles Buggs -- "Another guy that I think you're really going to see some good things out of, he's just got to put on some weight."
Overall: "I like our roster -- it could change. We've got another scholarship, who knows where that will go or what we'll do with it. The key with every coaching change is to bring in the right fit. You can't just give away a scholarship just to fill a spot."
*Pitino wouldn't go into roles specifically because he said the team hasn't done any 5-of-5 scrimmages yet.
*Pitino elaborated on his style of play, comparing it to his dad's system at Louisville: "We're going to put a premium on conditioning, we're going to put a premium on playing a lot of guys. My practices will be not very long because if you go that fast, you can't go really long. We'll shoot a lot of threes, certainly, and I told somebody the other day, the reason you shoot a lot of threes is because there are no fours, if there were, we'd shoot fours. It's more than two."