Souhan: Pitino could be best Gophers' hire in a decade

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2013 - 8:13 AM
hide

Richard Pitino is just the sort of young coach who was likely to be hired by the Gophers’ new athletic director.

Photo: BRIAN PETERSON • brianp@startribune.com ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Barring the nagging aberration that is Tim Brewster, Richard Pitino might own the shortest résumé of any coach hired to run a revenue sport at the University of Minnesota since John Gutekunst stuck around to clean up Lou Holtz’s spittle-caked confetti.

Yet given the apathy and low expectations coating the Gophers basketball program like inch-thick dust, it would not be surprising if Pitino became the athletic department’s best hire in a decade or two.

What frightens many alumni is that Pitino, a 30-year-old who has worked as a head coach for only one season, lacks experience. Given the state of the program and the unwillingness of proven coaches to take the Minnesota basketball job, Pitino might prove ideal: young and ambitious enough to treat Williams Arena as the promised land rather than a retirement home or unguarded ATM.

Norwood Teague couldn’t hire Shaka Smart, so he hired the guy who might become the next Shaka Smart.

Think of it this way: If Pitino becomes the head coach that Teague envisions, this spring might have been the only chance Minnesota ever would have to hire him. By next year, he might have hit the “ignore’’ button on his smartphone every time he saw a phone call from the 612 area code.

Whether or not you approve of Pitino, the hiring of Teague as athletic director dictated the hiring of someone like Pitino as head coach.

You don’t hire Teague, a pursuer and nurturer of young head coaches and assistants, and then ask or expect him to hire someone like Tubby Smith or Flip Saunders — somebody who used to be somebody.

You hire Teague because you believe he can identify the next power coach, and because you believe he and his hand-picked coach can build the Gophers basketball program into a sustainable winner. Teague and Pitino will be linked because they need each other to succeed.

If the University of Minnesota wanted the next Gophers coach to be Saunders, it need not have hired Teague. Any alum could have made that hire. If Teague hadn’t plumbed his contacts in search of the next big thing, he should have forfeited a year’s salary.

Under more ideal circumstances, Minnesota would have hired someone like Smart or Buzz Williams, but the Gophers basketball program hasn’t experienced ideal circumstances since the NCAA caught up with Bill Musselman.

The Gophers basketball job is a midlevel Big Ten position. It offers the opportunity to play for one of the Big Ten’s last NCAA at-large berths every winter. It lacks a practice facility and competes with four big-league sports for attention.

Minnesota can become a good job again, but the refurbishment will require the kind of energy and optimism usually associated with youth and perhaps even a constructive form of naiveté.

Teague said Friday that he wanted a coach who would be “a maniac’’ in recruiting. If testimonials from Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan and others are accurate, Richard Pitino is a driven worker who knows the landscape. His success at Florida International demonstrates coaching chops, taking a program that Isiah Thomas turned into a smoking crater and winning 18 games in his first season.

Those who have criticized the hiring of Pitino cite the risk of hiring someone so young and inexperienced, but every coaching hire involves risk. The risk with Tubby Smith was that he would look at Minnesota as a golden-parachute job where he would not be burdened by high expectations. His national title didn’t make him the right coach for Minnesota.

Pitino will bring energy and an attractive style of play to a program that has become known for timid coaching and player regression.

Richard Pitino doesn’t seem to have gained enough experience to know that Minnesota has been a mediocre job since we learned the name Jan Gangelhoff, or that the current athletic department culture promotes avoidance of challenges. He’s unspoiled enough to see upside and opportunity.

If Pitino can coach, and it appears that he can, his unwillingness to place a governor on expectations might become his most attractive trait.

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia 2 Top 8th Inning
Oakland 0
Toronto 5 Bottom 7th Inning
NY Yankees 2
Arizona 1 Top 8th Inning
Colorado 5
Boston - R. De La Rosa 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Milwaukee - M. Garza 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Washington - J. Zimmermann 6:10 PM
Miami - J. Cosart
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Cleveland - T. House 6:10 PM
Minnesota - T. May
Seattle - C. Young 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Wacha
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Texas - C. Lewis 8:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
Utah 26 Delayed 7:51
Michigan 10
Louisville 28 3rd Qtr
FIU 3
North Carolina 27 3rd Qtr 5:14
East Carolina 49
Army 21 4th Qtr 2:40
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 19 4th Qtr 10:17
(21) BYU 34
(6) Texas A&M 51 4th Qtr 6:51
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 4th Qtr 7:04
Navy 17
Central Mich 10 4th Qtr 13:23
Kansas 17
Florida 21 4th Qtr
(3) Alabama 35
Texas State 14 Delayed 13:35
Illinois 6
Fla Atlantic 16 4th Qtr 10:41
Wyoming 17
Indiana 17 3rd Qtr 5:10
(18) Missouri 17
San Jose St 7 4th Qtr 11:38
Minnesota 17
Massachusetts 0 4th Qtr 15:00
Penn State 48
Georgia State 0 1st Qtr 1:16
Washington 0
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 2nd Half 44:55
Portland 1
Houston 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
New England 6:30 PM
Columbus
San Jose 6:30 PM
Montreal
Seattle 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
D.C. 7:30 PM
Chicago
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close