Richard Pitino learned to value deflections working under his father, Rick Pitino, at Louisville. It’s a term that has been used heavily at Minnesota since Tubby Smith was coaching at Williams Arena.
Smith also a former Rick Pitino assistant at Kentucky, used to make his players do extra conditioning in the next practice if they didn’t produce a certain amount of deflections in a game. The elder Pitino used to say 35 deflections is a benchmark for determining a win.
Back when Rick Pitino was an assistant with the New York Knicks under Hubie Brown from 1983-85, he used to chart deflections and post them on the blackboard at halftime.
Now Pitino's son has his staff do the same thing with the Gophers.
"Deflection is something that we chart," he said. "We normally try for 35-plus. My (Florida International team) would always get that. My first two years (at Minnesota) we would really get that. We're not getting that this year as much. But we're getting deflections when we need to get deflections. It's a great indicator of how active you're being defensively."
The Gophers are averaging 21 deflections this year, with a high of 29 deflections in the Dec. 3 win against Vanderbilt. But Louisville full court presses a lot more than Richard Pitino does now at Minnesota.
“It depends totally on the style,” Pitino said. “My dad’s teams pressed every single possession. They trapped. We have not done that. I just think it depends on the style. We’ve had pretty good activity. A lot of it is shot blocks.”
Reggie Lynch, who ranks first in the Big Ten with 3.7 blocks per game, leads the Gophers with 45 deflections this year. His near 7-foot-3 wingspan has made a big difference in getting deflections this season.
Former Gophers forward Damian Johnson led Smith’s teams in deflections for three years straight. Johnson was 6-7, but he had a 7-2 wingspan. That length helped him earn a spot on the All-Big Ten defensive team.
“I usually led the team by deflections by a lot, because I would get blocks and steals,” Johnsons said. “Once (Smith) got our team to buy into it that really changed our team defensively. Deflections is a good indicator of how disruptive and active you are on the defensive end.”
Johnson is impressed with the defensive intensity for the Gophers this season.
“I’ve watched every game,” he said. “I think pretty much all of the starters have wingspans longer than their height. Everybody has long arms, except for Nate (Mason). They focus on being disruptive and getting in the passing lanes. They’re knocking away passes and there’s good ball pressure. Everyone is buying into Pitino’s philosophy on defense.”
-- Gophers assistant coach Kimani Young played his freshman season at LIU-Brooklyn, which plays Wednesday at Williams Arena. Young finished his career at Texas-El Paso. But the Queens, NY native averaged 8.7 points and started six games his first college season with the Blackbirds coached by Paul Lizzo in 1992-93.