CHICAGO — Earlier this week Richard Pitino and Rick Pitino sent each other texts back and forth, talking about Minnesota's Big Ten tournament game with Rutgers slated for Wednesday night. Then Richard dropped the line that makes every father in little league — and now Division I — well up with guilt.
"I said you haven't been to one of my games this year," Richard Pitino said.
So, less than 24 hours before his No. 14 Louisville Cardinals tipped off against No. 19 North Carolina in the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., the elder Pitino walked into the United Center to watch Minnesota beat Rutgers 80-68. It was the first time he'd seen the Gophers play since Louisville beat them in Puerto Rico to kick off the season. The legendary Louisville head coach spoke with the players before and after the game, repeating Richard Pitino's usual messages but also telling them stories of past teams of his that have overachieved in the postseason.
"It's good to hear it from someone else, so it really hits you," redshirt senior center Mo Walker said. "They both have different pasts. Coach Pitino senior will refer to his players at Louisville and tell us stories about how guys battled back from adversity."
Rick Pitino also sat down with Minnesota senior Andre Hollins, who scored 0 points Wednesday, and encouraged him saying he can do more than just shoot the ball. The Gophers hope their leading scorer has a different mindset Thursday when they face a talented Ohio State team at 8 p.m.
Minnesota won a game it was supposed to Wednesday, but perhaps the wisdom of a future hall-of-fame coach will resonate with the team moving forward.
"I don't even know how to explain it. Just knowing that he's actually paying attention to us and we're not even on his team. He flew in just to watch us play," senior point guard DeAndre Mathieu said. "That's big. He left his own team to watch us play. He said he's not here for his son. He's here for us seniors. We've been through a lot this year."
To read more about Rick and Richard Pitino's relationship, read my longform piece on them here.