Florida International head coach Richard Pitino rocked a navy blue suit for the quarterfinals of the 2013 Sun Belt tournament last March — the same exact suit he wore on his wedding day.
In the semifinals, he wore the same blue suit. And in the final, he donned the suit again — three days, three games, one suit.
“Nobody noticed,” Pitino said. “It wasn’t on TV.”
It was the only suit he brought with him to Hot Springs, Ark., a year ago.
“We didn’t fly private,” he said. “You’ve got to adapt at that level.”
Now that he’s the Gophers’ head coach, things are a lot different for Pitino. But some things remain the same.
While working as an assistant coach early in his career, Pitino wore hand-me-down suits from his father, Rick Pitino, who is a Hall of Famer and the current Louisville head coach.
Rick Pitino was the head coach of the Boston Celtics until 2001 and had a suit deal with Brioni.
In Richard’s mind, when his father stopped wearing a suit, he handed it over. It seemed like a great deal, sans one tiny detail.
“He got them all custom-made, so they don’t fit me,” Richard Pitino said. “But when I was an assistant, I’d wear them because nobody noticed me.”
That’s not how Rick remembers it, though.
Rick Pitino said those suits were never hand-me-downs.
“Every suit that he owns, with the exception of two or three, I’ve bought him,” Rick Pitino said.
Still, whether the suits are hand-me-downs or not, it doesn’t make much of a difference to the younger Pitino. He isn’t much of a shopper.
Richard said that while he was an assistant under his father, the two would go suit shopping on road trips — something he doesn’t do on his own.
“He’d buy a couple $1,000 suits, and he’d throw a tie my way every now and then,” Richard said. “Those trips were normally beneficial for me if I lingered around him by the cash register.”
Rick said his son doesn’t like to spend his own money.
“He likes to spend [my] money,” the elder Pitino said. “Richard travels with no cash. So if he’s on a golf course and he loses $30, or he has to pay the caddy, he says, ‘Dad, let me have some money, and I’ll give it to you later.’”
Rick said he’s heard that from his son at least 100 times but has never seen a penny in return.
Richard Pitino was in the midst of his first big-time battle at the Barn, facing Florida State in December.
In the second half, with his team leading in a hotly contested duel, Pitino scintillated fans when he ripped off his suit coat and flung it toward the bench.
The Williams Arena crowd went nuts, Twitter blew up and fans instantly fell in love with the coach who showed no regard for the jacket on his back.
“That’s his trademark,” senior guard Malik Smith said. “When he gets mad, he’s going to throw his coat. You can always expect that every game.”
Pitino, though, said he only throws his jacket when he’s really upset.
“Last year [at FIU], Malik shot a shot over the backboard,” Pitino said. “That was probably the greatest jacket toss I’ve ever had.”
Still, he wasn’t so quick to call the coat throw his signature move.
“I’m not like a wrestler,” said Pitino, who guessed he kept his jacket on from start to finish in 24 of the Gophers’ first 29 games.
While it’s become a signature of sorts for his son, Rick Pitino said he doesn’t personally do the jacket toss and isn’t the biggest fan of Richard doing it.
“I told him, ‘You’re wearing Armani suits, Brioni suits. If you want, go on your own, go to Joseph A. Bank, [buy your own suit] and throw it all you want,’” he said.
Rick said his son doesn’t listen to his advice, but the younger Pitino does listen to referees.
The Gophers’ head honcho executed a violent coat toss after he disagreed with a call during Minnesota’s win over Ohio State earlier this season. He received a technical foul, and the refs told him that he was guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I laughed, and I said, ‘What is this, football?’” Pitino said. “I’ve tried to stay away from [the jacket toss] because I don’t like getting technicals.”
Richard starts every game with the intention of wearing his jacket, but he can’t wait to take it off afterward.
“You’re hot. You’re stressed out,” he said. “It’s not comfortable.”
Pitino likes to be comfortable, and during the week — when he’s not stalking the sidelines in fancy garments — he’s strolling the hallways of the Bierman Field Athletic Building in track sweats.
From his time at FIU to his time with the Gophers, Smith said, that hasn’t changed.
Something blue, something new
Richard Pitino was hired to take over the Gophers basketball program last April.
At his introductory press conference, he again busted out the blue wedding suit.
Rick said before the season started, he turned to his son and asked about the state of his suit game.
“[Richard] said, ‘I could always use some,’” the elder Pitino said.
So the two went shopping on Rick’s tab, though the number of suits Rick bought his son is up for debate — Rick said it was three, while Richard said it was just one.
Nevertheless, the younger Pitino’s wardrobe has grown. It had to — he’s now the face of a major Division I program.
“I mean, you’re writing an article about my suits, so I know people are looking at it,” Richard said. “So you have to somewhat be presentable.”
Unlike the Sun Belt tournament, this week’s Big Ten tournament will be televised and highly publicized. The Gophers will fly charter. Still, that doesn’t mean their head coach is putting any more thought into his wardrobe.
Pitino has only a few criteria when making his gameday clothing choices. One is straightforward: He has to try to match something with his ever-clashing maroon tie.
The other requirement is a bit superstitious.
“When we lose, I remember the suit that I wear, and it’s kind of hard to put that suit back on,” Pitino said. “We’re losing too much that I don’t have enough suits, so I have to recycle them.”
When he packs for Indianapolis, he said, he won’t spend much time sifting through his closet of roughly 20 suits. He said he only wears six or seven of them — his favorite is a different blue suit with white pinstripes.
The older suits his father gave him are stuffed away in the back, Pitino said, and haven’t been worn in ages.
“I’ve got to send them to Goodwill or something,” he said.
These days, the younger Pitino is buying at least a few of his own suits, running his own program and building his own legacy — win by win, layer by layer.