Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Gophers look in good shape with Pitino, Kill

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: February 9, 2014 - 2:23 PM

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi and his faithful companion, Dave Mona, started the search for a football coach to replace the fired Tim Brewster in November 2010. I’m seeing it as if they had three index cards with five names apiece, and Jerry Kill’s name was at the bottom of the second card.

Rich Pitino wasn’t on a list for athletic director Norwood Teague and his right-hand basketball man, Mike Ellis, when they started the search for a basketball coach to replace the fired Tubby Smith in April 2013.

Whether it was through good fortune, or late-breaking insight on head coaches, the Gophers are in better condition with the teams that are the bills-paying titans of a Big Ten athletic program than in decades.

Kill’s fourth recruiting class was rated from the eighth to 12th in the new 14-team Big Ten. I was more impressed, and not because hometown running back Jeff Jones was given four stars.

The stature of the players indicates a group built for development and the long haul. There’s balance, with the secondary (one scholarship) as the lone shortage. Brewster’s second recruiting class in 2008 was rated No. 17 nationally, but there was neither balance nor real substance to a group that helped him get fired three seasons later.

Kill has substance. So does his coaching staff. And I’m guessing — as an occasional cynic on Gophers football — that so does this recruiting class.

As for hoops, Pitino’s first club lost three in a row to subpar foes, to give a hint this bunch might be ready to experience the MLK Day-to-Presidents Day slumber that became a tradition for Tubby’s program.

No matter.

What I like most about Pitino is his lack of “poor me.’’ We in the media have been busy offering the new coach more excuses than he cares to accept.

I also like this: Kimani Young, a Pitino assistant, is wired with AAU coaches around the country. The Gophers might be 0-for-3 on Tyus, Travis and Vaughn, but the Pitino/Young tandem has the energy and connections that will get some athletes in here.

Plus Three from Patrick

• I covered six Olympics. Here’s how they rate: 1. Barcelona, 1992; 2. Lillehammer, 1994; 3. Los Angeles, 1984; 4. Sydney, 2000; 5. Calgary, 1988; 6. Salt Lake City, 2002.

• Recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill: “This class is phenomenal. Minnesota has to be one of the biggest stories nationally. Recruiting is all about perception, and nobody does it better than ... Tim.’’

• Yeah, we all could feel better about Luginbill putting Jerry Kill among the nation’s top five coaches last week, if he hadn’t said the above about Tim Brewster’s dynamism in 2008.

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