Ready? New Gophers coach was born with a whistle

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 5, 2013 - 9:58 AM

Don't let his age fool you. At 30, Richard Pitino has soaked up -- and espoused -- the basketball wisdom of his mentors.

When Larry Shyatt heard the news of Richard Pitino’s hiring at Minnesota, he picked up the phone and called his old friend.

But Shyatt, the 61-year-old men’s basketball coach at Wyoming, wasn’t calling to offer words of wisdom to the 30-year-old embarking on his second year of head coaching experience, this time at a Big Ten school.

He was calling to listen.

“Usually, when you speak to Richard, you listen,” said Shyatt, who was an assistant coach with Pitino at Florida from 2009-2011. “In my case, where I come from, I like to listen to him. I learn more from listening.”

At first glance, it seems like a strange thing to say about the new hire who already has been dubbed “the kid coach.”

But throughout Pitino’s past and present, that sentiment is echoed — in fact, everyone who talked about him Thursday described Pitino as mature beyond his years.

Young, certainly. Raw? No, say those who know him.

“For anybody jealous of his age,” Shyatt said, “I’ll tell you what, he’s way beyond — in terms of maturity and intellect — any young coach that I’ve been around except perhaps Shaka [Smart at VCU].”

It’s quite a compliment, especially considering how much Gophers fans coveted Smart — whom Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague originally hired when he was at VCU — to be their next head coach. And it’s tough to not have doubts considering Pitino — son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino — has only a single season of head coaching experience in the rear-view mirror after taking the lead job at Florida International before last season.

Look a little deeper into his résumé, however, and the greenness starts to fade a bit.

Pitino has been around basketball — good basketball — all of his life. Growing up, he hung around his dad’s New York Knicks and then a Kentucky team that went to the Final Four in 1993 and then won the national title in 1996.

Pitino has seven years of experience as an assistant, going from Northeastern to Duquesne before spending a combined five years working for his father at Louisville and Billy Donovan — the other figure he publicly has credited with his early success and coaching style — at Florida before he landed at FIU. He took over that program on the cusp of 13 losing seasons and churned out an 18-14 record.

Along the way, he gained an impressive reputation among those in the industry as a basketball savant with a tireless work ethic, natural relationship skills and a knack for solving sticky problems — skills that were tested and developed in a new way when he first started at Louisville in 2007.

“When you work for [Rick] Pitino, it’s a different world you live in,” said Steve Masiello, coach at Manhattan College and a former assistant at Louisville with Richard Pitino and longtime friend of the family, who started out as a Knicks ball boy for Rick in sixth grade. “Rick Pitino would come into a staff meeting when you’re playing UConn on Big Monday, and you’re in charge of the game plan — you’re telling him what to do,” Masiello said. “I think that’s why Pitino’s guys have so much success after Rick is because he prepared us so well for that next step.”

By the time FIU athletic director Pete Garcia decided to look for a new coach last year, the search quickly narrowed.

“The more people I talked to, the more people that kept pointing back to him,” Garcia said. “They said this guy, even though he’s 29, will be the best up-and-coming coach in America.”

He didn’t disappoint Garcia, who knew after the first interview that Pitino was his guy. The young coach came in with an impressive and detailed plan to turn the program around both on the basketball court and with his players in the classroom. He brought in eight new players, started two walk-ons, and still nearly managed to make the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers adopted a pressuring defense and an up-tempo style of play reminiscent of his father and Dovovan. At the same time, the program, which had some academic issues heading into the season, turned around in that regard, too.

“The first week, I run into him — he’s on campus doing class checks himself,” Garcia said. “He goes out and does more than he promised. So in one year’s time, he has turned around a program.”

It was one of the first moments Pitino was put on a stage by himself — tested at the helm of his first ship. But young or not, the new Gophers coach has fostered a reputation that has given those who surround him complete confidence as he heads into the next stage of his journey, even if some in Minnesota might be wary of his age.

Take, for example, his father — who got his first head-coaching job at an even younger age — who knows his son is well prepared for his next challenge.

“He is more than ready,” the elder Pitino said in a news conference at the Final Four on Thursday. “What he did at Florida International I never thought anybody could do. He took walk-ons, eight new players, he turned around a bad academic situation and won 18 games and was a bucket away from going to the NCAA [tournament] in his first year. So he is ready to coach. I feel bad that I drove him that hard — now I’m happy I did.”

  • related content

  • Video: SidCast: Was Pitino a good choice?

    Friday April 5, 2013

    Sid gives his opinion on the new Gophers men's basketball coach, Richard Pitino.

  • Pitino's FIU boss knew coach would move on

    Friday April 5, 2013

    It was January when Florida International athletic director Pete Garcia started to worry.His coach was successful — as in he’s-going-to-be-leaving-too-soon...

  • Hartman: Pitino faces uphill battle with recruits

    Thursday April 4, 2013

    Tubby Smith’s firing came at a bad time, with so much Minnesota basketball talent in the Class of 2013.

  • Richard Pitino on the Friday morning news conference at Williams Arena.

  • New Gophers coach Richard Pitino, right, learned much from his famous father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, left.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 108 4th Qtr 1:45
Sacramento 115
Minnesota 65 3rd Qtr 0:1
Golden State 88
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 3rd Prd 7:47
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 3rd Prd 12:16
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
UNLV 79
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close