Debbie Jones — the mother of Tyus Jones, the Apple Valley point guard whom Rivals.com has ranked as the No. 3 basketball recruit in the country for the class of 2014 — said she was impressed by watching new Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino at his news conference last week.
“I think they made a good hire,” said Debbie, who has been involved in the recruiting of her son, one of the best players ever developed in this area. “They got a guy who seems to know basketball. He’s very energetic and eager to get going.”
She pointed out that having a coach such as Rick Pitino of national champion Louisville for a father had to give his son a big advantage in learning the game.
“I think good bloodlines, obviously. I think that helps him,” Debbie said. “[Richard Pitino] just seems like obviously he has been around the game a long time already with his father and everything, so he has a lot of knowledge and a lot of energy. It’ll be a lot of fun. I think Minnesota picked a good choice.”
Richard Pitino already has phoned Tyus. “Yes, [Pitino] will be recruiting [Tyus],” Debbie said. “Yes, definitely.”
This will be a real recruiting test for Richard Pitino and the Gophers. One Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach who has been recruiting Jones is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and he was in the Jones’ home Thursday night, one of several visits he has made with the family.
Coach K already has a commitment from Jabari Parker, a 6-8 forward player from Chicago, who was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in 2013 by Rivals.com. Krzyzewski’s great recruiting ability has helped him win more college basketball games than any other coach.
Another coach who has been recruiting Jones is a future Hall of Famer in Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. He also has visited the Jones family several times.
Those close to the Jones family believe Tyus will sign with either Duke or Michigan State.
It’s not the easiest position for a new head coach to come in when an outstanding player such as Jones has completed his junior season and already has formed relationships with some tough recruiting competitors.
There isn’t a person I know who is more familiar with Gophers athletic history than Dave Mona, especially, as he points out, over the past 45 years. His father, Lute, was an outstanding high school basketball coach at Minneapolis South, and Dave follows all sports as well as anyone.
Mona brought up an interesting point the other day. When you look back on the past 45 years of Gophers coaching changes, especially in football and basketball, they have had only one football or basketball coach leave Minnesota for a promotion or what you might call a better job. The rest were fired and a few have retired.
The one coach who left for a better job was Lou Holtz, who went from Minnesota to Notre Dame football.
It’s hard to believe.
• Tom Jurich was a kicker for four years under Joe Salem at Northern Arizona, who had a tryout with the Vikings and, in 1979, was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota under Salem. Jurich is now the athletic director at Louisville and has had a tremendous year. The Louisville men’s basketball team won the NCAA championship by defeating Michigan 82-76 on Monday. On Tuesday, the Louisville women’s basketball team lost to UConn 90-63 in the national championship game. In January, the Louisville football team defeated Florida 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl as a 14½-point underdog. And the Cardinals baseball team is ranked 12th in the country. In addition to that, Jurich was a key fundraiser to build a new basketball arena and football stadium for the Cardinals.
• When the Vikings go to London to play this fall, the idea of playing football overseas won’t be an entirely new experience for coach Leslie Frazier. “I had the chance to go to London when I was playing [with the Chicago Bears] but I was injured, I stayed back to rehab and didn’t go,” he said. “But I have played in games overseas. We had a game in Japan when I was with the Colts, and that was quite the experience. But personally I have not been to London yet.”
• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is excited about a number of young players who have shown tremendous improvement this spring. Among those players is 6-0, 194-pound sophomore defensive back Eric Murray of Milwaukee Riverside University High School. “He’s a young man … who is a tremendous athlete. He has a pro-form body. We’re excited about the progress he’s made. He’s somebody that a lot of people don’t hear about a lot, but Eric has done a great job.”
• Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt sang the praises of former Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith when he introduced Smith as the new coach of the Red Raiders. “We have a leader and a head coach who has served for 22 years as head coach in college basketball, and out of those 22 years, he has been to the NCAA tournament 17 times,” Hocutt said. “And we have a head coach who went to the NCAA tournament this year and advanced in the NCAA tournament.”
• Catching up with former Gophers hockey players: Former team captain Erik Haula made his pro debut for the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, this week against Oklahoma City. Haula scored a point in his first game, assisting on a goal by Kyle Medvec in the first period. … Zach Budish has now played three games for the Milwaukee Admirals, but hasn’t tallied any points yet. … Defenseman Nate Schmidt has played two games for the Hershey Bears and has two assists.
• There are now three former Gophers on the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins’ Class A affiliate in the Florida State League: Kyle Knudson, Adam Pettersen and Michael Kvasnicka. Pettersen, a shortstop, is hitting .231 through five games with one run scored. Knudson, a catcher, is hitting .200 through three games with a home run. Kvasnicka, an outfielder who was traded to the Twins in March from the Houston Astros, hasn’t played yet because he is on the disabled list.