As the last buzzer sounded Thursday in Indianapolis, ending the season and possibly Richard Pitino's long Gophers tenure, the finality seemed to slowly sink in for him.
His players could no longer fight to keep things going — a tumultuous year was finally over.
Pitino appeared somewhat detached as he strolled off the Lucas Oil Stadium court following his team's hard-fought, 79-75 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament's second round.
"Would I love to be back? Of course, I would love to be back," Pitino said. "Not my decision."
Maybe he knew this was the end. The eighth-year Gophers coach didn't embrace many players as they crossed paths with their heads down after the game.
Pitino did squeeze the hand of Marcus Carr, his best player, who scored 24 points. Carr was in tears after giving his head coach and teammates everything he had, in what could be his last Gophers game as well.
"I'm proud of these guys because that was a great effort," Pitino said. "I don't know what the future holds."
When will Pitino meet with athletic director Mark Coyle now that the season is done? Pitino didn't say, but he's not going to lobby for his job.
"I'm not going to go in there with a list of things," Pitino said. "It's not the way it works. We all have losses. That's OK. I do have a great relationship with Mark. If he gives me some bad news, that doesn't mean I'm going to flip a desk or anything."
In eight years with the Gophers, Pitino is 141-122, including NCAA tournament appearances in 2017 and 2019. The way this season started, after five wins against ranked opponents, it certainly looked like a third NCAA tourney was possible.
Injuries to starters Liam Robbins and Gabe Kalscheur, and others playing hurt, derailed the regular season, though, ending with 11 losses in 13 games and dropping seven in a row.
"I try not to dwell on things I can't control," said Carr, an All-Big Ten point guard. "But it was very unfortunate and a huge blow to our team."
The Big Ten tournament gave Pitino's team new life, especially after the 51-46 opening-round win Wednesday vs. Northwestern. The Gophers were the No. 13 seed, but their last-minute rally against No. 5 seed Ohio State gave them hope they could keep their season alive.
The Gophers cut Ohio State's 12-point lead to three on Both Gach's layup that capped a 21-12 run in the second half.
Following two missed free throws from Justice Sueing, the Gophers pulled within 75-74 on Carr's three-pointer with 13 seconds to play.
E.J. Liddell hit two free throws that gave the Buckeyes a slight cushion. Carr was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit one of two free throws, but the Gophers couldn't rebound his miss on the second foul shot.
Pitino had no inside scoring presence, with 7-footer Robbins missing his fifth straight game because of a sprained left ankle. No Robbins meant the Gophers had to rely on their jump shots. Forget that they were ranked 340th nationally with 28.6% shooting on three-pointers.
Minnesota's backcourt of Carr, Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Tre' Williams combined to shoot 6-for-30 from the field in the first half, but that didn't kill their confidence.
The trio combined for 13 points during a 16-7 run that was capped by Williams' three to cut Minnesota's deficit to 53-49 with 7:38 to play. They wouldn't go out quietly.
Five of the Gophers' last six losses were by single digits. So Pitino wondered what the Gophers' season would've been like if they had been healthy.
Is it unfair to judge Pitino after this type of season? He wouldn't say.
"I don't know if I'm the greatest coach in the world," he said. "But the one thing I've never done is make excuses and talk about what's fair and not fair. … Life's not fair."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.