Scoggins: Hiring Pitino the kind of leap Gophers had to take

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 4, 2013 - 6:54 AM

It’s an intriguing hire, one that carries a high risk-reward. This is the type of hire we should have predicted all along.

hide

Richard Pitino went head to head with his father on Dec. 19 when Florida International played at Louisville. Dad beat son 79-55.

Photo: TIMOTHY D. EASLEY • Associated Press ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Say this for Norwood Teague and his Villa 7 cohorts: They got a big name.

Just not the one everyone knows.

Teague concluded his search for a new Gophers basketball coach by hiring one of the most recognizable names in college basketball. He hired a Pitino.

Not Rick Pitino, of course. No, his son, Richard, a 30-year-old coach at Florida International who apparently has a reputation as a top up-and-comer in the coaching profession.

It’s an intriguing hire, one that carries a high risk-reward. This is the type of hire we should have predicted all along.

Every coaching search starts with grand illusions, or delusions. Fans and media toss out pie-in-the-sky scenarios that make little sense to anyone without ties to that particular school. I mean, why wouldn’t Tony Dungy want to coach the Gophers football team? He did play here, after all.

Then reality sets in and expectations for the search take on a more honest tone. People fell into that same trap again with this search, myself included.

We looked at Teague’s basketball background and his success with his Villa 7 program and just assumed he could attract a high-level, established coach to replace Tubby Smith. We knew Teague had connections to Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens and Buzz Williams and figured the Gophers’ new ambitious athletic director had a fighting chance to reel in a big fish.

Hogwash.

How many coaching searches actually end with a school hiring its dream coach or first choice? That happens at only a select few places, and Minnesota is not one of them.

Ultimately, the Gophers job simply has too many obstacles and drawbacks to be considered an attractive job to established head coaches. The Barn is antiquated, a practice facility remains in concept stage, and the program has a checkered past. At best, Minnesota is the eighth-best job in the Big Ten right now.

That doesn’t mean Teague was wrong in trying to hit a home run. He desperately wants to elevate his basketball program’s stature so he had to see if he could convince a power coach to take the job. No harm in that. He probably didn’t expect to get so far down his list, though.

Many Gophers fans clung to their sentimental pick, Flip Saunders, who reportedly turned down an offer. Whatever caused those negotiations to fall apart, it seems fairly obvious that Teague and his right-hand man, Mike Ellis, kept a prescribed coaching profile in mind and Saunders did not fit that criteria.

That’s their prerogative, but it also could end up being a major mistake if Pitino fails miserably. Teague’s tenure and legacy are forever tied to his hire because athletic directors usually don’t get many opportunities to make decisions of this magnitude.

No matter what they say publicly, the young Pitino wasn’t their first choice, or second choice, or third. Or even their fourth or fifth. That doesn’t automatically make him a bad choice. He just brings more unknowns.

As far as we know, Pitino is not a Villa 7 alum, but he has something that’s probably equally attractive to Teague: He’s a product of Villa Pitino.

The son worked for his legendary dad at Louisville and served on Billy Donovan’s staff at Florida. He’s learned under two of the best coaching minds in college basketball. That doesn’t guarantee he’ll be successful as Gophers coach, of course, but maybe he’ll become Teague’s next Shaka Smart.

Teague turned to the same source in finding his new coach. VCU hired Anthony Grant and then Smart off Donovan’s staff at Florida. Donovan gave those two coaches glowing recommendations at the time, and it’s a safe bet he did the same thing when Teague came calling again.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 2nd Prd 4:17
San Jose 3
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the hockey season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close