Scoggins: Pitino shows Minnesota his lighter side

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2013 - 7:24 AM

Yes, the new Gophers coach does have a sense of humor.

hide

Richard Pitino during his introductory press conference.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Richard Pitino walked into a community center banquet room and a group of fans immediately surrounded him in search of autographs, pictures and a few words with the new Gophers men’s basketball coach.

“I’ve had about 20 people come up to me and say, ‘No pressure, just a Final Four is all we’re asking for,’ ” he joked.

This is a side of the young Pitino we haven’t seen in the six weeks since he replaced Tubby Smith. Between recruiting, hiring a coaching staff, evaluating players and settling into a new job, Pitino has been too preoccupied to offer a sneak peek into his personality.

In interviews, he’s come across as an ultra-serious basketball prodigy who learned the game from the cradle with a Hall of Fame coach as his father. On Thursday, Pitino showed he has a sense of humor and some charisma, too.

Pitino joined athletic director Norwood Teague, football coach Jerry Kill and a few other coaches on the first leg of a 16-stop road trip around the state to promote Gophers athletics (and presumably boost fundraising). A crowd of 400 people attended a luncheon in this small town about two hours southwest of the Twin Cities.

Pitino spoke last and delivered a few zingers that made a favorable impression with the masses in his first public event outside of the Twin Cities. A few of his quips:

• On his frenetic style of play: “I feel like we need to be like the Harlem Globetrotters the way you guys are anticipating the way we’re going to play.”

• On whether he will schedule Louisville, his father’s team: “Not yet. I’m trying to get a D-II school out of Louisville to come in here.”

• On center Elliott Eliason: “He won’t be able to play until he beats me in a pushup competition.”

• On center Mo Walker: “He’s lost 20 pounds, which is great. That’s a deck chair off the Titanic, as they say. He’s got to lose about 40 more.”

• On forward Oto Osenieks: “I said, ‘Oto, do you have the nickname Oto-matic?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ Then I looked at his stats and he made two threes [all season].”

For the record, Pitino followed each joke with plenty of praise while noting that he likes what he sees from the returning players based off individual workouts and private conversations. And he promised to schedule Louisville in the future. And he definitely loves his style of play and thinks it can be successful at Minnesota.

“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “It’s going to be up-and-down basketball. We’re going to shoot a lot of threes.”

Pitino Ball will look foreign to Gophers fans. Whether it works remains to be seen, but Pitino’s entire focus revolves around full-court pressure defense and run-and-gun offense. He’s quick to note that Florida International ranked in the top 10 nationally in steals last season.

“That’s an indication of how aggressively we play defense,” he said.

Pitino needs depth and guards to play that style and he’s added three newcomers to the roster in the past few weeks. He also wants to sign one more post player, but his team looks like it will rely on small ball in the short term.

“I like to play with two or three ballhandlers at a time,” he said. “I like speed. I think that’s the way that we need to play. If you look at Louisville’s team this year, they played basically with two point guards in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. That’s kind of the model.”

Now if he can only recruit players with that kind of talent. Joe Coleman doesn’t rise to that level, but contrary to rumors, Pitino didn’t encourage the junior guard to transfer this week.

“I wanted him to stay,” he said. “I thought he would have been a nice piece to what we’re doing. But I think Joe had thought about it over the last couple of weeks about potentially getting a change in scenery.”

The fact that Eliason and Walker don’t exactly fit the ideal profile for Pitino’s system has left people to wonder whether they also might look for a change of scenery. Neither center is fast or particularly athletic.

Pitino believes Eliason can become a “difference-maker” if he gets stronger and that Walker can make an impact if he gets in shape. Pitino said Walker has changed his diet and will remain on campus this summer to work on reshaping his body, which “shows a lot about him,” Pitino said.

“People concern themselves with how Mo and Elliott are going to fit,” he said. “They’ll be fine. They’re going to be in the back of the press. They’ll be fine. Guys like them can definitely play in this style.”

Pitino concluded his speech with a promise that drew cheers from the crowd.

“We’re going to play a fun brand of basketball,” he said. “It’s going to be entertaining.”

 

Chip Scoggins ascoggins@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Rayno: Q&A with new Gopher Malik Smith

    Thursday May 16, 2013

    What drew Smith to Pitino in the first place and what will practices be like now?

  • Pitino on Coleman: I wanted him to stay

    Thursday May 16, 2013

    Coach Richard Pitino said he met with Joe Coleman a few days ago and indicated that Coleman, a former Hopkins star, had been considering transferring for a few weeks.

  • Richard Pitino at Williams Arena last month.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 7:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 7:30 PM
Houston
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Golden State
Florida 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Colorado 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Carolina
Washington 6:00 PM
Columbus
Anaheim 6:30 PM
Montreal
St. Louis 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Edmonton 9:30 PM
San Jose
St Thomas (TX) 17 2nd Half
Rice 33
Stony Brook 6:00 PM
Canisius
Temple 6:00 PM
Delaware
FIU 6:00 PM
Long Island
Lehigh 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Richmond
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
South Florida
Ga Southern 6:00 PM
Stetson
Yale 6:00 PM
Vermont
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Virginia
Wright State 6:00 PM
Western Carolina
Nicholls 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Morgan State 6:30 PM
Rider
Idaho State 6:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oakland City 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Eureka 7:00 PM
Bradley
Appalachian St 7:00 PM
Charlotte
Connecticut 7:00 PM
Duke
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Coastal Carolina 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Montana State 7:30 PM
South Dakota
LSU 8:00 PM
UAB
Ohio 8:05 PM
Evansville
CS-Dominguez 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Walla Walla 9:00 PM
Idaho
DePaul 9:00 PM
Oregon State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Pacific
Portland State 9:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Bakersfield 9:05 PM
Utah State
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 31 2nd Half 9:12
Charlotte 51
Chicago State 41 2nd Half 12:55
Bradley 44
Northwestern Coll 39 2nd Half 9:50
Drake 80
Vanderbilt 18 1st Half 7:31
Marquette 24
Temple 4:00 PM
Howard
Southern Miss 4:00 PM
Ole Miss
UMBC 4:00 PM
Rider
Miami-Florida 5:00 PM
UCLA
St Mary-KS 5:00 PM
South Dakota
William & Mary 5:00 PM
Wofford
Troy 5:30 PM
Evansville
Loyola Marymount 6:00 PM
USC
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
Indiana-Southeast 6:00 PM
IUPUI
Delaware State 6:00 PM
Detroit
Tenn Temple 6:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
West Virginia St 6:00 PM
Radford
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Seton Hall
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Ball State 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Trine 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Tenn Tech 6:30 PM
Lipscomb
Samford 7:00 PM
Tulane
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Ark-Little Rock 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
CS-Northridge 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
Oregon
(19) Oklahoma St 8:00 PM
Weber State
Washington 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Cal Poly 8:00 PM
New Mexico
(10) Louisville 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
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: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close