Gophers athletics director Mark Coyle was asked the day after he fired Richard Pitino if he would consider hiring an assistant to fill the head coaching vacancy.

Coyle said from the beginning he wouldn't rule anyone out while casting a "wide net" for Pitino's replacement.

Penn State certainly didn't let a lack of head-coaching experience prevent the Nittany Lions from finding their guy. They hired Purdue assistant Micah Shrewsberry as their next coach earlier this month.

The last assistant to be hired outside the program as a Big Ten head coach before this year was Northwestern's Chris Collins, who took over the Wildcats in 2013 after being on Duke's staff.

Wisconsin's Greg Gard was promoted from interim as the full-time replacement for Bo Ryan in 2016, but he was also a member of Ryan's staff for 23 seasons.

The list of potential Gophers candidates from the assistant ranks are not as clear cut as head coaches. Names with Minnesota ties, though, are Xavier assistant Ben Johnson, Colorado State assistant Dave Thorson, Northern Iowa assistant Kyle Green and Gophers assistant Ed Conroy.

Johnson, who worked for Pitino previously from 2013-2018, would probably be the hometown favorite since he was a former Mr. Basketball at DeLaSalle and played for the Gophers. He was on Pitino's staff when the Gophers reached the NCAA tournament in 2017. And he helped the Gophers sign former Hopkins star Amir Coffey, who is now with the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA.

Green, the father of UNI star guard A.J. Green, is from Minneapolis and went to school at Hamline and St. Thomas. He's recruited the state of Minnesota well with the Panthers.

Thorson was a Hall of Fame high school coach winning nine state titles at DeLaSalle, which included coaching Johnson as a player. He's recruited the state on Minnesota native and Rams coach Niko Medved's staff.

Conroy isn't a Minnesota native, but he was the longest tenured assistant under Pitino with strong relationships with some in-state recruits. His nephew is the Gophers 7-foot starting center Liam Robbins. But he also has head-coaching experience at Tulane and the Citadel.