The next Gophers men's basketball coach might not inherit a roster that looked anything like what Richard Pitino coached in his last season with the program.
Not unless the new coach can keep the core of the team from jumping ship.
On Tuesday, the Gophers saw their most promising young player do what is becoming more common this time of year: Freshman guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. entered his name into the transfer portal.
Mashburn, the top prospect in Pitino's 2020 recruiting class, could still decide to come back, but his father said the U's new coaching staff will have to recruit him all over again.
"We are going through the process," former NBA and Kentucky star Jamal Mashburn Sr. said. "My son had a great time at Minnesota and learned a lot. Looking forward to his next chapter."
Whether that next chapter will be with the Gophers is uncertain, but Mashburn is considering all his options. This could be the path more players take if it takes a while to hire Pitino's replacement. Athletic director Mark Coyle met with players in a video conference after firing Pitino on Monday, explaining the situation.
But growing numbers of athletes are entering the portal, and soon they won't have to sit out a year under the NCAA's pending one-time transfer rule. Roster management will be as challenging as ever, especially with the NCAA granting athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic.
"The transfer portal is the new wave of college basketball," Coyle said. "I can assure you when me and the search committee meet with our candidates, that's a question we're going to have for them. How do we navigate and work our way through that?"
Who will Pitino's replacement persuade to return? Outside of Mashburn, these six players played the most minutes last season:
Marcus Carr: The Gophers' All-Big Ten floor leader is expected to declare early for the NBA draft again, but this time the point guard likely will be headed for the pros. The Toronto native ranked third in the Big Ten in scoring (19.4) and assists (4.8) this year. About the only thing he didn't do in his college career was play in the NCAA tournament, so that could be one selling point for the new Gophers coach.
Liam Robbins: Minnesota's season fell apart after the 7-foot Drake transfer sprained his ankle Feb. 11 vs. Purdue. When healthy, he was one of the league's top big men. But letting Robbins play through the injury backfired, as the team went 1-8 rest of the way. The Big Ten's top shot blocker could see what happens to his uncle, Gophers associate head coach Ed Conroy, before making a decision.
Gabe Kalscheur: The heart and soul of the team, Kalscheur's broken finger left the Gophers without the guard's defensive presence on the perimeter. The last Minnesota high school recruit on the roster was loyal to Pitino, and the feeling was mutual during Kalscheur's lengthy shooting slump. Will the former DeLaSalle star want a fresh start somewhere else?
Brandon Johnson: The 6-8 Western Michigan graduate transfer would be saying goodbye to college in a normal year, but times are different. He said late in the season he might take advantage of the extra year of eligibility, whether Pitino returned or not. Johnson was the Gophers' only inside presence with Robbins out.
Tre' Williams: Nobody stepped up more after the injuries than Williams, who scored in double figures in seven of his last nine games. The sophomore guard started at the end of the year and scored a team-best 14 points in the Big Ten tournament opening victory vs. Northwestern. The Dallas native has family in Minnesota, so that's an incentive to stay.
Both Gach: Another Minnesota product (Austin), the 6-6 Gach has pro potential. But the junior guard didn't have the year he imagined when transferring home from Utah. He was inconsistent in the Big Ten and ended the season needing foot surgery. His status for next year is up in the air.