Pitino gets a booming introduction at Williams Arena

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2013 - 7:07 AM

Richard Pitino's age (30) and enthusiasm stood out when the new coach met with fans and the media.

As Richard Pitino made his way to the podium, the Minnesota band booming, the ribbon board in Williams Arena brandishing his name in running circles, the 30-year-old looked ahead, smiling only slightly as he strode past expectant fans.

There’s no doubt Pitino, who was introduced officially as the new Gophers’ men’s basketball coach at a news conference Friday, is well aware of his age. When he took his first head coaching job at Florida International last season, he was the third-youngest coach in college basketball. Smiling too much in this debut could have made him look wide-eyed or shell-shocked.

But conscious or not, Pitino, like at least a few of his new players, looks at his youth as a strength.

“I certainly embrace the fact that I’m young,” Pitino said. “I don’t try to hide from it.”

Pitino didn’t hide from questions, either. As the media floated queries on everything — from recruiting, style of play, the hiring process with athletic director Norwood Teague to his immediate goals — the East Coast native was quick to respond. He tooted all the right horns, complimenting the job, the university, the arena and the people, and paying his respects to Tubby Smith while bringing up better recruiting and a new style of play right away.

At the same time, with Pitino being hired only Wednesday — with negotiations beginning earlier this week — there are still specifics to learn about his new team and new state.

He did, however, offer a snippet of the brand he wants to bring to the Gophers — a fast-paced style marked by lots of defensive pressure — while making a strong statement in suggesting that Minnesota is a destination job for him.

“This is absolutely the place I want to be,” Pitino said. “Me and my wife [Jill] talked about it last night, just how excited we were that we can finally be at a place that we hope to be for the rest of our lives and build something special. I believe this is one of the top basketball jobs in the country, and I believe the University of Minnesota is one of the best universities in the country. So I’m really looking forward to building a program that competes at a very high level.”

As with many coaching searches, Friday’s introduction marked a considerable turnaround from a couple of weeks ago.

Teague fired Tubby Smith on March 25, and at the time Pitino wasn’t, at least publicly, on anyone’s radar. Teague said on Friday that “Richard was always on my list.” Many other names were mentioned in connection to the Gophers’ job, which Teague would not discuss Friday. But the AD was happy with the outcome, calling Pitino a “perfect fit” for Minnesota.

The transition is still in its early stages. Pitino has met with his new team for only 15 minutes, before the news conference on Friday, but the players expressed relief in the process. Austin Hollins said the team was kept mostly in the dark during the search.

“After playing under Coach Smith for three years, and then having to make a transition — you want to make sure you get a guy in here that you’ll know you like, especially with one more year left,” he said. “So, after finding out that it was Coach Pitino, I think there was a lot of relief – everybody could sigh a little bit and get ready to work.”

Pitino understandably didn’t give a lot of specifics about recruiting (talking about individual recruits is an NCAA violation), but he noted fully the importance of finding quality players, an area where Minnesota has struggled in the past.

Pitino reached out to each of the “Big Three” recruits for 2014 — Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis — almost immediately after he agreed to take the job. He also didn’t commit to going after recruits for the upcoming season. The Gophers have three scholarships available after Alvin Ellis said Wednesday he had changed his mind, but Pitino could hoard those for the loaded 2014 class.

“We’re not going to just try to fill scholarships,” Pitino said. “I don’t think that’s the right way to do things. We’ll watch a lot of film over the next couple of days, and [watch] them play and we’ll see what the needs are.”

In the coming days, Pitino will start to put together a staff — an area where Teague suggested he has handed the young coach the reins.

The new Gophers coach may be youthful, but with that trait comes a few others that were once again obvious as he spoke to players, fans, media and boosters: passion and energy.

“When you build a staff, I want to have guys that are hopefully better than me, hopefully guys that will push me every single day, live and die with this program,” Pitino said. “Just live, breathe, eat, sleep basketball.”


  • related content

  • Video: Richard Pitino plans an aggressive style of play

    Friday April 5, 2013

    The University of Minnesota introduced new men's basketball head coach Richard Pitino at a pep rally in Williams Arena.

  • Hartman: Pitino impresses right off the bat

    Saturday April 6, 2013

    If Richard Pitino can coach as well as he can talk, then Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague has hit the jackpot.

  • Scoggins: Recruiting is key for Pitino

    Saturday April 6, 2013

    By the time Richard Pitino stepped onto a stage inside Williams Arena on Friday morning, he already had begun the process of selling himself and his vision to this state’s...

  • Photo gallery: Meet the new coach

    Friday April 5, 2013

    Richard Pitino is introduced at the University of Minnesota as the new men's basketball coach.

  • Minnesota's 'Big Three' recruits are on Pitino's radar

    Friday April 5, 2013

    Reid Travis, Rashad Vaughn and Tyus Jones are on Pitino’s radar.

  • Gophers players welcome up-tempo style Pitino brings

    Saturday April 6, 2013

    Guard Andre Hollins, a fan of fast-paced ball, said the U made “the right choice.”

  • Chart: Highlights of new Gophers coach Richard Pitino's contract

    Saturday April 6, 2013

    THE DEAL FOR PITINOHighlights of Gophers coach Richard Pitino’s contract:• Pitino will make $1.2 million per year ($500,000 base salary...

  • Chart: Other father/son coaching duos

    Friday April 5, 2013

    fathers and sonsRichard Pitino’s father, Rick, is coaching in his seventh Final Four this weekend. Here is a look at...

  • New coach Richard Pitino’s first day in the spotlight on the Minnesota campus included a photo session, along with meeting with reporters and fans at Williams Arena.

  • Richard Pitino appeared at ease as he fielded question after question during Friday’s on-campus news conference.

  • New Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino walked onto the Williams Arena court to music and cheers Friday in his introduction to the U of M community.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
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
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Toronto 2:30 PM
LA Clippers
Boston 6:00 PM
Orlando 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:30 PM
Indiana 7:00 PM
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Atlanta 7:30 PM
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
New York 9:00 PM
Minnesota 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Detroit 6:00 PM
Carolina 6:00 PM
Tampa Bay
New Jersey 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Boston 6:00 PM
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Washington 6:30 PM
Dallas 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Chicago 8:00 PM
Edmonton 9:00 PM
San Jose 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Indiana 11:00 AM
Maine 11:00 AM
Seton Hall
UNC-Wilmington 12:00 PM
Georgia State 12:00 PM
Green Bay
Jacksonville St 1:00 PM
Kentucky 1:00 PM
Northern Ky 2:00 PM
UAB 3:00 PM
North Carolina
Santa Clara 3:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Oakland 4:00 PM
Gonzaga 5:00 PM
Mercer 5:00 PM
San Francisco 5:00 PM
Wright State 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Presbyterian 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Brescia 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Tennessee St 7:30 PM
Kennesaw St 8:00 PM
Colorado State 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Portland 8:00 PM
San Diego
Wayland Baptist 8:05 PM
Utah State
Bristol University 8:05 PM
Weber State
Sacramento St 8:05 PM
Utah Valley U
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
SD Christian 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 1:10 PM
Miami-Florida 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 7:00 PM
(24) USC
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
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
(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
(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
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
SMU 12:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
UCF 2:00 PM
BYU 4:00 PM
Pacific 4:00 PM
San Francisco
St Marys-CA 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
San Diego 7:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


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




question of the day

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

Weekly Question