Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino has hired three assistants and nabbed a recruit two weeks into the most recognizable job of his life — all after watching his father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, win the NCAA championship in Atlanta on April 8.
“It was hard for me because I just took the job,” Pitino said. “I had so much going on, and I wanted to just turn my phone off and enjoy it.”
Pitino welcomed media into his office at the Bierman Field Athletic Building for the first time this week and discussed his expectations, his analysis of the team and his staff.
You were quoted as saying it would be pretty unrealistic to expect an NCAA tournament berth next season. What did you mean by that?
That’s not really what I meant by it. I meant should the expectations be as high this year as they were last year? My point is we’re losing two starters in the frontcourt. Two very good players … and we don’t have the depth necessary just yet.
What is your assessment of the frontcourt?
It’s too soon to tell. Charles Buggs has not been working out because he has mono and Mo Walker got hurt a little bit. Elliott Eliason is good, worked hard. We’ve certainly got some great pieces; we don’t have all the pieces intact just yet.
Do you have a sense of what type of player Andre Hollins is and what he can bring?
I do. That’s not a hard one to figure out. He’s a great player, really talented. Probably one of the more talented guards I’ve been around —scores the ball at a great rate, very competitive.
Do you anticipate any attrition or transfers?
It’s been a while, but obviously [assistant Kimani Young’s] past has been well-documented. How has he grown from that?
I think he made a mistake 14 years ago. I think his story is incredible with how he’s been able to rebuild his life and get to this point.
You had said you’re not looking for ‘yes men’ for your assistants. What are you looking for in your staff?
I want great chemistry. I’ve worked on some staffs where we had great chemistry. I need guys that complement each other and guys that make me better. I don’t want all the same guy.
In terms of advanced stats, what do you look at and what do you bring to the table?
I’ve always been into stats. If we do a game, we’ll chart deflections, steals, charges, blow-bys defensively. We have a bunch of little stats that we chart that you won’t see on a stat sheet.
Do you talk to your dad or Billy Donovan about the job?
Yeah, I talked with him every day, alked to Billy Donovan a lot, too. ‘How would you deal with this certain thing?’ It’s great because they’ll have different opinions. None are right or wrong — it’s just what you believe.
How do you go about selling a program, one without a practice facility?
Louisville had the nicest arena in the country. We didn’t get our players because of that. We got our players because of the people, the coaching staff, the players around them.
Do you think the lack of a practice facility is being blown out of proportion?
Yes. I think a practice facility is going to make my life easier. I’m not sure it’s going to change much more than that. We’ve got enough here right now, and I’ve got full confidence in Norwood Teague and his staff that they’re going to get that done.
What’s next on your to-do list? You’ve got individual workouts, recruiting, what else?
You have to make sure the guys that are here get better. I’ve got to get great relationships with these guys in the time being. I have to solidify my staff and then get on to recruiting. I can’t make a mistake of neglecting the players here. I have to make sure those guys understand what I expect of them and the culture I’m trying to build because it’s going to be different than what they’re used to. Right or wrong, it’s going to be different.