Pitino dives into deep end of the Big Ten pool

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 2013 - 11:40 AM

Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino will need to learn along with his new team.

If new Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino had walked into the packed Hyatt Regency conference room on Thursday, stopped and blinked a few times, he’d have to be forgiven.

Now in his second year as a head coach — and his first with the lead job in a high-profile basketball league — Pitino still is having new experiences, figuring things out, making adjustments.

Everything, it seems, has changed.

“It’s a little different than the Sun Belt media day,” Pitino said at the Big Ten’s annual media day Thursday, a day before the Gophers play host to Cardinal Stritch in an exhibition opener. “I don’t think we actually had one, if I remember correctly.”

The 31-year-old Gophers coach is no stranger to prime time. He’s the son of Rick Pitino, Louisville’s legendary college coach who also led the NBA’s Knicks and Celtics. The younger Pitino has worked as an assistant coach under him, and under Billy Donovan at Florida.

But there is plenty of acclimating still ahead. First are the sheer logistics: media days — coming from Florida International, the media hordes at all — and all the things that come with jumping into a new league where every event is unfamiliar.

“That first year is so difficult,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “You haven’t been to a lot of the arenas. You don’t even know where you’re staying. You don’t know the routines. The officiating is always different when you go league to league — it’s not bad, it’s just different — so there are a lot of things that he has to go through right now that all will help him to be a better coach. As a coach that moved around a lot, those first years are very trying on you, your family, everyone.”

Nebraska coach Tim Miles remembers well his first season in the Big Ten a year ago, after making the jump from Colorado State. Coaching at Crisler Center at Michigan, Miles found the lights were brighter, and hotter than he’d expected. He remembers looking at Beilein and understanding why the coach’s sleeves always were rolled up. The Huskers’ next game was at Michigan State and Breslin Center, the underbelly of which Miles walked out of right before tipoff to face Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who already was seated on his stool, waiting for the new coach.

“Who do you think you are? Bobby Knight?” Izzo said in jest. “Get your butt out here.”

“He gave me a nice lecture,” said Miles with a laugh. “So that was my introduction to the Big Ten.”

What might be the bigger adjustment for Pitino is the conference’s styles of play. While coaches say the Big Ten isn’t even close to its old reputation — slow-down, grind-it-out basketball — there isn’t really anything quite like the up-tempo system that Pitino says he wants to play.

“From the standpoint of style, I think it will be unique,” Illinois coach John Groce said.

In a way, that is kind of fitting for the “new” Big Ten. While teams such as Indiana, Michigan and Illinois like to run, there are other teams, such as Wisconsin, that actively work to slow things down. Iowa has been known to press quite a bit. Northwestern, until this season, has played a Princeton-style offense — although new coach Chris Collins has said he will probably keep some of those aspects.

“Maybe 10 years ago there was a tag of not running, walking up the court, but I think it’s changed,” Groce said. “It’s a lot different now. There are different styles, and there are coaches pushing the ball, coaches that are aggressively pushing the envelope on defense more, and on offense.”

A near-constant press would make the Gophers not just unique in the Big Ten, but one of the few active pressing teams left in the country, Beilein said — which would make for an adjustment for opposing offenses. But the surrounding variety also gives Pitino a lot of styles to watch and learn.

Groce said he drew on his previous experience as an assistant at Ohio State when he took the Illinois job a year ago. Collins, who is in his first head coaching job, was previously an assistant at Duke for 13 years — but has coached games at Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Purdue, and at Indiana, either through scheduled games or the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and says he greatly values those experiences.

Pitino doesn’t have the same specific encounters, which just means he’ll have to learn as he goes and adjust on the fly. That seems to be just fine with the young coach, who isn’t getting too far ahead of himself. So when Beilein called recently to ask him what he thought of Minnesota’s Big Ten schedule, Pitino told him the truth: He, well, hadn’t looked at it.

Pitino shrugged and laughed. “What’s that going to do except keep me up at night?” he said.

  • related content

  • Chart: Amelia Rayno predicts the Big Ten race

    Thursday October 31, 2013

    Gazing into the crystal basketballStaff writer Amelia Rayno handicaps the Big Ten men’s basketball race at the start of preseason...

  • Gophers' Banham hopes to spread recognition around

    Friday November 1, 2013

    When Gophers captain Rachel Banham saw her name on both the preseason women’s basketball coaches and media All-Big Ten first teams, she only saw that as more attention for her...

  • Pitino in tweets and video from Big Ten basketball media day

    Thursday October 31, 2013

    A look, from Star Tribune's Amelia Rayno and others, at what Richard Pitino said during this morning's press gathering at the Big Ten media day in Chicago.

  • Richard Pitino will face plenty of adjustments in his first year as Gophers basketball coach, several coaches cautioned at Big Ten media day.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Miami - LP: M. Dunn 1 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 3
Arizona - WP: T. Cahill 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: P. Strop 5
San Francisco - WP: J. Machi 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Bettis 10
Texas - WP: M. Perez 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 0
Houston - LP: J. Fields 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: F. Rodney 5
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: C. Morton 2
LA Angels - LP: E. Frieri 4 FINAL
Washington - WP: D. Storen 5
Kansas City - LP: K. Herrera 3 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: B. Shaw 5
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 10 FINAL
Toronto - LP: T. Redmond 8
Chicago WSox - WP: A. Rienzo 6 FINAL
Detroit - LP: E. Reed 4
St. Louis - LP: M. Wacha 2 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 3
Minnesota - WP: C. Fien 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Lueke 4
NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 1 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Lackey 5
San Diego - LP: T. Ross 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: K. Lohse 5
Philadelphia - LP: C. Hamels 2 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: Z. Greinke 5
Charlotte 97 FINAL
Miami 101
Dallas 113 FINAL
San Antonio 92
Portland 112 FINAL
Houston 105
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Dallas 4
St. Louis 3 FINAL(OT)
Chicago 4
Houston 0 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers men's hockey season

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close