Multiple media outlets are saying the Gophers have found their new coach (University has not yet announced the hiring). And they are plucking this new coach from the family tree of one of the game's most successful coaches. Rick Pitino is taking his Louisville Cardinals to his second straight Final Four, his son Richard will be flying to Minneapolis to take the University of Minnesota's opening.
This name came out of right field, as many thought the eventual hire would. Pitino is one of the youngest head coaches in D1 basketball and has only been a head coach for 1 season. His one season was at Florida International where he was hired to clean up the mess left by Isaiah Thomas. It is just one season as the head coach, but that does not mean Pitino isn't qualified nor does it mean that he isn't ready for a Big Ten job.
Pitino spent 2007 through 2012 as an assistant either under his father at Louisville and a couple years in between under Billy Donovan at Florida. He also has assistant coaching stints at College of Charleston, Northeastern and Duquesne.
So what can we expect from our new coach? I found this interesting SBN article written by Mike Rutherford of Card Chronicles. This profiles Richard's hiring process to FIU and the challenges he faced taking over for the fired Thomas. THIS IS A MUST READ!
During his first 72 hours on the job, Pitino had five different Panthers come into his office and tell him they were transferring. He was left with a total of three scholarship players on his roster. No one was surprised when FIU was picked to finish 10th in the 11-team Sun Belt before the season.
He is certainly coming into a much better situation here. And he took what was projected to be the worst team in the Sun Belt to the school's most successful season! He started 2 walk-ons
Since New Year's Day, the younger Pitino has been at the center of one of the more inexplicable runs in recent memory. Over a two-month span between Jan. 2 and March 2, FIU won a school-record 11 conference games, broke the school record for overall wins in a season and secured its first non-losing season since 2000.
He didn't have a full compliment of talented players and he was able to more with less!
"We start two walk-ons; we really only play five scholarship guys and I think the lesson to be learned is, in Year 1, you've got to have great kids," Pitino told the AP last month. "And these guys are great kids. They do whatever we ask. They give unbelievable effort. They've been fun for me because I'm far from the coach that I need to be, so I'm able to make my mistakes with them and learn from them, and they're able to learn from me as well."
Um, I'm sold. I e-mailed Mike to get his thoughts on the younger Pitino and he told me that many folks in Louisville are hoping he is the heir to Rick when his father decides to retire. I hope Richard is successful enough here so that wouldn't be unimaginable.
Dickie V loves him, and suggested he'd be a great hire for Rutgers! Silly, Dickie. Eamonn Brennan profiled the hire last spring.
The younger Pitino brings his name with him, so he has that public relations advantage, but he is also a legitimate college basketball coach in training, one who spent much of the past decade breaking down tape and learning under two of the nation's most successful college hoops coaches, one of which just so happens to be his father.
So what did we hire? It sounds like we hired a young, energetic, recruiting savvy coach who has many think has a "good basketball mind" and in a very small sample-size was able to be successful with limited resources and talent. He has the family name which on it's own should help in recruiting battles, at least in the short-term.
Is this a Shaka Smart home-run, press-conference winning hire? Not quite, but this is the "up-and-comer" coach who has a famous last name. He may have the energy and skill-set to hit the home-run, technically that is his job, not Teague's. In a very short amount of time I went from "who?" to "wow!" and I am thrilled with this hire. We are clearly buying low on a guy who many think has a very bright coaching future. He has learned from a couple of the game's very best and now he'll get to test his mettle in the nation's best basketball conference.
I wouldn't even say that this is a high-risk, high-reward type of a hire. I would argue that this has moderate risk with high reward potential. I knew all along that Teague would make a great hire to please us all :).