New Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino was introduced to fans and media members Friday after a search process filled with twists and turns — as well as mentions of several candidates who were older than him by a few years in some cases, and decades in others. Pitino, 30, doesn’t shy away from questions about his age. But what does history say about the success or failure of young leaders in high-profile sports positions?
• Billy Donovan: The best reason for optimism if you are a Gophers fan is Donovan, who was also 30 when hired for the Florida men’s basketball job in 1996. He has turned the Gators into perennial contenders and won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007.
• Shaka Smart: The last head men’s basketball coach hired by Norwood Teague — now the Gophers AD — was Smart at VCU. Smart was 32 when he coached his first game at VCU in 2009; in his second season, 2010-11, he took the Rams to the Final Four. And like Pitino, he is a former Donovan assistant.
• Theo Epstein: When the Red Sox hired him in 2002, he was the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball. Just 28 then, Epstein was the architect for Boston’s World Series title in 2004 and another in 2007.
• Jeff Capel: He was the head coach at VCU before Anthony Grant, who was replaced by Shaka Smart. Capel left VCU at age 31 to take the job at Oklahoma. In his third season there, the Sooners went to the Elite 8. But in Years 4 and 5, they went a combined 27-36, and he was fired. He is now a Duke assistant.
• Tommy Amaker: He was the youngest head coach in Big East history when he was hired by Seton Hall in 1997 at age 31. He took the Pirates to one NCAA tournament in four years, then left for Michigan where he made zero trips to the Big Dance in six years. Now 47, Amaker has led Harvard to the NCAA tournament in the past two seasons.
• Josh McDaniels: He was 32 when the NFL’s Broncos plucked him off of Bill Belichick’s staff at New England. In his first season, 2009, Denver jumped out to a 6-0 start. But the Broncos finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. They were 3-9 the following season when McDaniels was fired mid-year.