Richard Pitino’s résumé at Minnesota includes a 51-48 overall record, a 16-36 mark against Big Ten competition and one NIT championship in three seasons.
Here are a few other items on his résumé:
Daquein McNeil, a Pitino recruit, was dismissed from the program after being arrested on two felony charges of domestic assault involving his girlfriend.
Zach Lofton, a Pitino recruit, was dismissed from the program for “failing to meet expectations and obligations.”
Carlos Morris, a Pitino recruit, was dismissed from the program because of “conduct detrimental to the team.”
On Sunday, three players — Nate Mason, Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer — were held out of the Illinois game, punishment reportedly tied to the release of a sexually explicit video on one of the player’s social media accounts.
The university would only say that the players, all Pitino recruits, missed the game because of a violation of team rules. (Dorsey served a one-game suspension for an exhibition game earlier this season because of a different violation.)
Anybody else bothered by all of this?
The cumulative effect of this rash of disciplinary issues raises concerns about Pitino’s program and deserves as much attention as his won-lost record, because a head coach should be evaluated on every facet of his operation.
The instances listed above can’t be brushed aside as Pitino trying to clean house or send messages to holdover players from Tubby Smith’s tenure.
These are players that he recruited and brought into the program. These are his guys.
Pitino responded to the latest incident — suspending three key players an hour before tip-off Sunday — by patting himself on the back afterward over his stance and his attempt to create a culture of responsibility.
“Culture and doing what’s right is extremely important to myself and my staff,” Pitino said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity that I have. … We’re going to do things the right way. Tonight wasn’t about wins and losses; it was so our guys understand that things are bigger than basketball. We’re going to do what we believe in is right.”
The fact that Pitino disciplines players when the situation warrants it should not be discredited. Shows he’s willing to hold players accountable if they screw up.
But at some point, shouldn’t the university examine what’s happening on the front end that might be contributing to these problems? How many players must Pitino suspend or kick off the team before the culture that he talked about takes root?
This comes back to recruiting and identifying students who can be successful representatives of the university — on and off the court.
Look, problems exist on every college campus. Students do dumb things and make mistakes all the time. It’s part of growing up and maturing away from home.
But when athletes are involved — especially at power-conference schools — their mistakes often enter the public arena because of their profile and platform.
That’s the deal, whether they think it’s fair or not.
Blame falls squarely on the individuals, because they’re adults who know right from wrong. But the mess also reflects poorly on the head coach. And right now, Pitino’s program looks bad — and not just because of a 2-14 Big Ten record.
Pitino’s team has been historically inept on the court this season. The off-court problems give an appearance of things being out of control.
That’s a double whammy that will cost him his job if this continues much longer.
The next athletic director — whether that’s interim Beth Goetz or an external hire — must take these disciplinary issues under consideration when evaluating Pitino’s tenure and his future.
Pitino received a two-year extension (through April 2021) and a $400,000 raise last summer, pushing his annual compensation to $1.6 million. Pitino also is scheduled to receive a “contract fulfillment incentive” of $450,000 on April 30 of this year if he’s still employed.
The opinion here remains that, despite this miserable season, Pitino should get the opportunity to coach his highly regarded incoming recruiting class — provided more off-court problems don’t appear between now and season’s end.
These suspensions and dismissals leave an unflattering perception of Pitino’s program. It’s hard to ignore the red flags.
A certain level of turmoil and turnover is expected with any coaching change. But the number of issues Pitino has encountered doesn’t feel like normal business.
Losing has made Pitino’s Gophers men’s basketball program an easy target for ridicule. The growing list of discipline problems is no laughing matter.