WASHINGTON – After watching his basketball coach lead the Gophers to the biggest turnaround in program history, University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle said Friday he’ll engage in contract discussions with coach Richard Pitino after the team’s postseason.
Pitino, 34, faced heavy criticism a year ago after an 8-23 season. But he won Big Ten Coach of the Year following a 23-8 regular season this year, with the best conference finish in 20 years at 11-7.
“Richard and I definitely want to talk to each other about what works,” Coyle said at the team hotel Friday before the Gophers’ game against Michigan State. “I didn’t do his current contract. But I want to make sure he feels that what’s in that contract helps him achieve the goals he wants. So we’ll definitely have those conversations. For sure.”
In August 2015, Pitino received a contract extension through the 2020-21 season, which increased his annual salary to more than $1.6 million (his supplemental compensation went from $700,000 to $1.1 million). A new buyout clause was agreed upon as well, and if Pitino would have been fired after the worst season in program history last spring, the U would have been on the hook for $7.1 million. The buyout has since decreased to almost $6.2 million.
This season, between raises (his base salary, $578,812 for this season, increases by 5 percent each year) and bonuses, Pitino will make over $1.8 million, and possibly as much as $2 million if other performance and academic bonuses activate. Pitino already has $125,000 in performance bonuses this season, assuming the Gophers make the NCAA tournament (a $50,000 bonus, on top of $50,000 for a winning Big Ten record and $25,000 for coach of the year).
The last contract was first discussed under former AD Norwood Teague and finalized with interim AD Beth Goetz. Coyle, who took over in May, said he has “no doubt” Pitino’s 2015 contract will be part of the discussion.
“We’re all being evaluated every day, and he’s no different,” Coyle said. “You have to constantly evaluate contracts and constantly evaluate the status, because those provide security and comfort for people. So we’ll always look at those things.”