Richard Pitino is your Big Ten Coach of the Year!
The change in fortune for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in just one season is the best surprise of the Big Ten this season. A year ago Pitino was dealing with the fallout from the Twitter video mess and facing significant fan heat for a historically bad season. Now? Minnesota has just earned their first Top 4 finish in the Big Ten in over a decade, set new records a variety of win categories (if you let the NCAA erase your memory), and completed the biggest turnaround in all of Division 1 basketball.
23 losses last year, 23 wins this year.
Sure, Chris Collins (probably) got Northwestern Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament, but in all honesty that represents what that team should have accomplished. Matt Painter won a Big Ten title, but he also had the B1G POY on his team. Some people keep pushing Mark Turgeon but their arguments seem to rely on “younger team than Minnesota” thinking. Pitino didn’t just engineer a huge turnaround from last season, he was also able to get his team to transition from a 5 game losing streak into an 8 game winning streak. They beat the conference champs on the road. They did so with a pretty young roster where they successfully transitioned in multiple transfers to the starting lineup. The other coaches listed may have been deserving, but none more than Pitino.
This is the first time a Minnesota coach was name B1G COY since Clem Haskins in 1997, or if you prefer the NCAA wayback machine, since Jim Dutcher in 1982.