Read my profile on Richard Pitino here.
Some other short notes here.
I spoke with several people close to Richard Pitino – the Gophers’ new men’s basketball coach – for my profile on the 30-year-old for tomorrow.
And I have to admit, I was impressed by what they had to say. Whenever you talk with loved ones and people close to a person – you expect to hear compliments. What took me aback slightly, was the height of these compliments, and a couple of patterns that became apparent: everyone described him as mature beyond his years, and his high intellect, charismatic personality and knack for solving problems were noted extensively as well. I could sense a deep respect and a real belief from these people for Pitino.
There is more to come on the young coach on Sunday, but for now, I thought I’d leave you with a few leftovers:
(Read some of what his dad, Rick Pitino, told media at the Final Four today here.)
Pete Garcia, the athletic director at Florida International, who hired Pitino for his first head coaching job:
On searching for a new head coach before last season: “The more people I talked to, the more people that kept pointing back to him, to Richard. They said this guy, even though he’s 29, will be the best up-and-coming coach in America and so I wanted to talk to him … Everybody raved about his work ethic, his involvement in the game, his recruiting skills, his Xs and Os. There’s nothing that was a negative.”
On his impressions of Pitino: “I’ve been doing this for 25 years now, and I’ve been around some good coaches in all sports – whether it’s Butch Davis or Greg Schiano, the head coach of Tampa Bay [Buccaneers], Rob Chudzinski, the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Chuck Pagano, the head coach of the Colts; I’ve worked with all of those guys very closely, Leonard Hamilton at Florida State in basketball, Jim Morris baseball coach at the university of Miami, and this guy is as good a coach in any sport at any level as any person that I have ever been associated with.”
(“That’s a strong statement,” I said. “And I’m standing by it!” he replied.)
On his successes at FIU: “He goes out and does more than he promised. So in one years’ time, he has turned around a program … He’s turned it around where the kids are getting good grades, they’re going to class, they’re meeting with their advisors, he’s done the whole thing. Obviously he had a lot of help because he put a good staff together – that’s part of his job. He’s able to put a staff together, he knows everybody in the basketball world, he’s a tremendous recruiter and he’s a great game-day adjustments person. He coaches the same – very passionately – whether he’s up by 20 or down by 20, and he coaches every second of every minute of every game.”
On Pitino leaving (Garcia said he saw the writing on the wall in January, when his coach was succeeding to the degree that he was): “He’s laid a solid foundation for us. I’ve had more people apply for this job already than we even thought about. And that’s a tribute to him because everybody is saying well, he went to FIU, he won 18 games immediately, he was successful, and then he parlayed that into a job like Miinnesota. There are a lot of people out there that want to be the next Richard Pitino.”
Steve Masiello, head coach at Manhattan College, former assistant with Pitino at Louisville, long-time friend of the family (he was a ball boy when he was in sixth grade in 1989 for the New York Knicks when Rick Pitino was coaching them):
On Pitino overall: “He’s mature beyond his years. He’s had a tireless work ethic since he went to college to become a coach … He’s always been a guy that’s worked hard at it – didn’t look for anything easy, which is really respectable in how he handled himself and how he did things.
On hanging out with Pitino as a kid: “We were just young kids having fun who loved the game of basketball. We didn’t know where this game would take us 20 years later, that he’d be a BCS coach or that I’d be a head coach or that we’d work together with his dad at Louisville – we were just young kids, playing basketball, having fun.”
On Pitino’s ability to problem-solve: “I just think he had an unbelievable ability to – if he ran into a speed bump or let’s say if he ran into a problem, he’d figure out a way to either go around the problem or solve the problem. With Richard, it was never – don’t tell me what he can’t do, tell me what he can do. He would always say don’t tell me what we can’t get done, tell me what we can get done. The glass was always half full. He always figured out a way to figure out a solution to every problem. He didn’t bring problems to the table, he brought answers. And that’s very difficult to do, especially at a young age.”
On Pitino’s early maturity: “You have no choice but to be much more mature, hanging around coach. You have no choice. Coach forces you to be that way and to kind of really grow up, so to speak. In this profession, at a young age, like he was, like I was, you have to be mature, you have to separate yourself from the players right away. And Richard did that, and that’s why he was so successful. He acted as if he was a head coach at 24, 25 years old, which is what you want him to do.”
Larry Shyatt, current head coach at Wyoming, former assistant with Pitino at Florida:
On Pitino's early success: “For anybody jealous because of his age, I’ll tell you what, he’s way beyond in terms of maturity and intellect of any young coach that I’ve been around except perhaps Shaka.”
On Pitino's strengths and how he related to players: “His get-along-ability was terrific, but I think that comes from not only him understanding relationships but maybe more importantly gaining a level of respect from not just them but his peers, the rest of our staff. I think once you have a level of respect, I think kids are pretty responsive and very observant. I think the one thing that stands out is that he plays and coaches to a high intellect and I think that that’s pretty obvious once you meet him.”