This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

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Richard Pitino sits among elite company on ESPN list

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: June 2, 2014 - 11:57 AM

Just over a year ago, Richard Pitino was an unrecognizable face with a familiar last name. 

Now -- according to an ESPN list published on Monday -- after guiding Minnesota to the NIT championship in his first year at the helm, the two-year head coach has done enough to sit among elite company.

ESPN included Pitino, who coached one season at Florida International before taking the job at Minnesota before last season, on a list of the top-50 coaches nationally, based on current work.

Not bad for a 31-year-old who has not yet authored an NCAA tournament appearance.

The compilation, ESPN staff wrote, reflects only the present and isn't a statement about these coaches' legacies or careers. But that qualification doesn't make the list any less confusing.

Pitino sat at No. 49 on a list that excluded Big Ten coaching veterans, Tom Crean -- who took Indiana its second consecutive Sweet Sixteen just two years ago -- and Matt Painter, who has taken Purdue to the NCAA tournament six times and has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year thrice since 2008. 

Directly behind Pitino, in a tie for No. 50 is Baylor coach Scott Drew, fresh off a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Ten spots in front, former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith roots No. 39 after posting the first losing season of his coaching career, at Texas Tech, a team that did not play in a postseason tournament. Dayton's Archie Miller, after bringing his program to its first Elite Eight in 30 years, is somehow only at No. 26.

According to the post, ESPN staff compiled the post based on individual ratings from "nearly 100" college basketball experts at the company. Each person rated coaches current work on a scale from 1-10. Then, the coaches were ranked accordingly. Whether each person had the same criteria -- ie., how program expectations are factored -- isn't clear.

So what does the list mean? Well, not much. ESPN isn't insinuating that the ranking is a predictor of immediate success going forward, nor is it meant to be an overall hierarchy of coaches in the game. 

What it does say is that on a national scale, Pitino's first season at Minnesota turned some heads. At this point, though, the sample size is still incredibly small.

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