The Gophers basketball head coaching job was something San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher expected he would be linked to at some point.
Dutcher's father, Jim, coached the Gophers from 1975-85. Dutcher grew up in Bloomington and graduated from the U the same year his dad won the program's last non-vacated Big Ten title in 1982.
That connection alone didn't make headlines until Richard Pitino's future appeared uncertain with the Gophers (13-14), who open Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
Pitino is expected to meet with athletic director Mark Coyle after the season. Dutcher, who has a lowered buyout of $1 million if the Gophers came calling, was asked if he addressed the speculation with his players about any potential interest from Minnesota's program.
"I just told them in our first meeting, whenever anything happens at the University of Minnesota, my name's going to come up because I went to school there and my dad coached there," Dutcher said Monday. "But I'm solely focused on San Diego State right now that that doesn't need to be in any of our heads. We need to prepare ourselves to play our best basketball in March and try to be at our very best when our best is required."
Dutcher continued to sidestep talk of interest coaching anywhere other than San Diego State during his Monday video conference to local media.
"I would say Richard Pitino is the head coach of the University of Minnesota and they are preparing to play in the Big 10 tournament," Dutcher added. "And I am here in San Diego State trying to be solely focused on getting the Aztecs ready to play in the Mountain West tournament and then the NCAA tournament. Any comment beyond that would probably not be timely or worth discussion at this time."
In four seasons as San Diego State's head coach, Dutcher has a 93-30 overall record, including 53-18 in the Mountain West. He was an assistant under Steve Fisher for nine years at Michigan and 18 years at SDSU before replacing him at the helm.
SDSU athletics director John David Wicker declined comment recently for a San Diego Union Tribune story speculating about Dutcher being a candidate if the Gophers job opened.
But Wicker talked previously about the Minnesota connection when Dutcher signed his new deal last September, which will pay him a Mountain West-best salary of $1.18 million in 2021-22. The buyout is $6.9 million except for the Gophers.
"It's Minnesota," Wicker said. "It means so much to him and his family. I feel comfortable if that's something he really wanted to do, then OK. But I fully feel he has a better opportunity of being successful at San Diego State than he does at Minnesota. It would mean that he would want to go back for family-type reasons."
The Aztecs (20-4), who won their second straight Mountain West regular season title, will open in their conference tournament quarterfinals Thursday in Las Vegas.