There was a Twin Cities scribe who was a touch obnoxious in passing along the opinion that Richard Pitino was hired mostly based on a surname by Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague in April 2013.
This rabble rouser did cite one other reason for Teague to make the Pitino choice: Woody was desperate after several turndowns, the last of which came from Andy Enfield, who had taken Florida Gulf Coast on an NCAA tournament run.
Enfield chose Southern Cal over the Gophers, where he has hung around long enough to have a 16-3 record in his eighth season.
Pitino augmented the leftover talent from Tubby Smith's team that had beaten UCLA (thank you, Shabazz Muhammad) in the NCAA tournament.
Richard went 25-13 with an NIT title in his first season. "What do you think of Pitino now, wiseacre?'' came the missives to the aforementioned scribe.
Pitino went 8-23 in 2015-16, his third season, and the scribe responded in kind.
And on it has gone for five more years, up, down, mostly sideways, to the point that neither the early boosters nor the early skeptics can declare a final answer to the question:
"What do the Gophers have in this guy Pitino?''
My suggestion would be that Athletic Director Mark Coyle fire Pitino at season's end, if that comes before the second round of the NCAA tournament, and then Coyle can look around to do this:
Hire a coach with the combination of youth and experience in power conference basketball.
And he could gain that experience and also hire the youngest head coach in the Big Ten in this novel manner: bringing back Pitino.
Now Richard would have to give back the buyout money, but the guy is 38, won't turn 39 until September. The next youngest coach in the Big Ten is Indiana's Archie Miller, 42 and continuing the transformation of the Hoosiers into a middle-of-the Big Ten program.
I can't imagine how the rabble rouser would respond to Coyle bringing in an already battle-tested 38-year-old to reinvigorate the Gophers' fan base, rather than a 30-year-old with only a last name on his résumé.
My guess is the scribe would be as optimistic as he was when the Gophers brought in 38-year-old Dan Monson from Gonzaga in the summer of 1999.
OK, that didn't work out, but at least Monson was worth the shot after taking the Zags to the final eight in their second-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
One certainty of a Richard return in April after being fired in March is that it would not be based on name this time — not when father Rick's demise at Louisville so tarnished his image that the best he could do for a return to college coaching in 2020-21 has been the Iona Gaels.
Here are two thoughts on father Pitino:
•First saw him at Final Four with Providence in 1985 and declared Rick to be the slickest college hoops coach I'd been around.
•Most impressive Xs and Os college coach I've seen. Teams with outstanding execution, while playing fast, and with splendid adjustments.
A distant view of Richard is that he's neither overly slick nor a great strategist.
Yes, the Big Ten record is lousy, but 2-16 in Year 3 and 4-14 in Year 5 will do that to a young man. His teams have rarely energized the fan base, but factors beyond a mediocre product were leading to huge numbers of empty seats before the pandemic.
Among those: Teague's ludicrous ticket surcharges and inflated single-game prices drove away loyalists. Full price for a bundle of nonconference walkovers (tickets that wind up getting eaten). A bloated 14-team Big Ten reducing, to a degree, the rivalry nature of the meat part of the schedule.
There's also a change in the essence of the Big Ten game:
The wonder of the conference, when we truly cared, first with Musselman, then with Dutch, then with Clem, was the battle — Iowa comes in, or Indiana, or Illinois, and you're going to beat on each other for 40 minutes, and then a bruiser such as John Thomas was going to push someone from Michigan out of the way and put the Gophers ahead with three minutes to go, and Williams Arena was going explode.
Now, you have a bunch of 30% shooters firing three-dozen threes while playing on a bleached white court.
I say fire Pitino. Then bring him back a month later and call it a fresh start.
Because I don't think it makes any difference.
This has been Gophers basketball for the first one-fifth of the 21st century, and this is what it's destined to be … subpar some winters, above par the next, just another option in a crowded sports market, because Bobby Jackson and his hard-nosed like won't be bouncing back up those steps for fierce combat on real hardwood any time soon.