Richard Pitino is gone. May the University of Minnesota never again hire a 30-year-old basketball coach with one year of head coaching experience.
But as he leaves, let's give Pitino the credit he deserves.
Yes, his team collapsed in 2021. Yes, his Big Ten winning percentage was damning.
Given how he was hired and by whom, Pitino should be remembered as an overachiever.
Remember, he was hired by a now-disgraced athletic director, Norwood Teague, who sold himself as a college basketball guru but couldn't get anyone to take the job after he fired Tubby Smith on the heels of a victory in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Pitino was Teague's eighth choice or so. He was hired because Teague ran out of options. Pitino was hired to take over for a coach who would go into the Hall of Fame, hired to take over a program that, ever since Clem Haskins was revealed as a cheater, has been mostly cloudy with moments of sunshine.
Pitino was hired to compete with the titans of the Big Ten when he should have been apprenticing for one of them.
Pitino would win 53% of his games at Minnesota, would beat Louisville in an NCAA tournament game, would be ousted twice in the NCAA tourney when his best player was injured. He would win only 36% of his Big Ten games.
That sounds terrible, unless you consider modern Gophers basketball history.
Dan Monson is a quality basketball coach. He also won 53% of his games, and 38% of his Big Ten games, then fled for better weather and a better chance to win.
Smith at Minnesota won 60% of his games and 43% of his Big Ten games. Haskins won 53% of his games, and 38% in the Big Ten.
This might be the right time to fire Pitino, but let's not pretend that he was an outlier. He performed about as well, or better, as he should have been expected to perform under the dire circumstances, and given the unearned arrogance of the miscreant who hired him.
And as he departs, give Pitino credit for this: Division I men's college basketball coaches tend to be egomaniacs and tyrants. Pitino was the rare member of his fraternity who would take a tough question and answer it, who didn't place himself above the fray.
Three factors spelled doom for Pitino's tenure here:
1. Minnesota began producing remarkable high school basketball talent, and Pitino seemed unable to even compete for some of the top local prospects.
2. Pitino's teams and players didn't seem to improve during the Big Ten season.
3. He worked in the vicinity of P.J. Fleck.
Are those factors fair?
1. If Jalen Suggs or Tyus Jones decides he wants to play for blueblood programs, he's not going to play for Minnesota, and the Minnesota coach has no control over that.
2. Pitino's inability to build quality roster depth hurt him during rugged Big Ten schedules.
3. Fleck might have been the worst thing to happen to Pitino's career.
In Fleck, Coyle was able to hire the perceived best young football coach available, and Fleck produced a historic season that fulfilled at least some of his more realistic promises. Fleck, at least for one impressive season, pushed aside all of the excuses Gophers football coaches have been reasonably offering for decades.
Coyle cut his teeth at two basketball schools: Kentucky and Syracuse. He must be thinking that if he can lure a promising football coach to Minnesota, he can certainly lure a promising basketball coach.
Unlike Teague, he will be able to put together an impressive list of candidates, including Brian Dutcher and Eric Musselman. Coyle should be able to hire someone much more qualified for the job than was Pitino eight years ago. This hire should be in Coyle's wheelhouse.
As for Pitino, Gophers fans should stop treating him like he ruined the program.
Don't blame him. Blame Teague.