Will the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ men’s basketball team take a step forward this year after a disastrous finish a season ago? I’m the wrong person to ask.
But off the court, head coach Richard Pitino is stepping up his game.
Specifically on Twitter.
Allow me to explain.
Twitter accounts for head coaches at the college level are almost a necessity at this point, considering most, if not all, of their players and recruits have an account. The difference is in how these accounts are managed. For some head coaches, their account simply exists to push out the occasional obligatory Tweet. For others, like Gopher football head coach P.J. Fleck, the account helps promote their program, with inoffensive Tweets that extol their values.
Then there is Richard Pitino.
Just yesterday, he poked fun at the fact that he was the first to arrive at the office in the morning, delivering a playful jab at his coaching staff.
And this morning, like a true master of his craft, delivered the payoff.
Pitino is entering what most would consider a make-or-break season in his up-and-down tenure so far at Minnesota. He has to be feeling the pressure, but his Twitter output feels like a coach who couldn’t feel more comfortable in his own skin. There is a self-awareness inherent in his Tweets that you don’t see often from a Power 5 head coach.
Gopher Road trip was a blast as always. Thx to all of our great fans! Favorite line of the trip had to be "hey coach, whats with all the sit out transfers? Don't u think it would be wise for you to win this year??" #SkiUMah— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) May 9, 2018
July recruiting period is in the books. Rental car tank is full. Not gonna get yelled at when I get back! pic.twitter.com/r6CRMzUpwG— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) July 29, 2018
I wish. Could close my eyes during the scary parts https://t.co/8lRV72j2aV— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) September 9, 2018
Pitino is also well aware that the Gophers were a huge disappointment last season, climbing as high as No. 12 in the national rankings before losing 14 of their last 16 games to end the year. Whereas other coaches might shy away from addressing the elephant in the room, Pitino has opted to instead give it a bear hug, refusing to sugarcoat his failures.
Fired up for the gopher road trip tomorrow. 2 straight days, 9 different stops of reliving last season is definitely going to be a lot of fun!— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) May 6, 2018
Just got congratulated on our year by another college coach. I love the July recruiting period!— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) July 11, 2018
This, to me, is a very refreshing approach, and one that I think will help endear him to fans. When trying to rebound from a disappointing season, coaches can employ a number of different tactics to keep fans from abandoning ship. There is something to be said for a self-deprecating approach that acknowledges fans’ disappointment and frustration. Finding the humor in the most dour of circumstances can help keep a person sane.
I mean, Pitino isn’t even afraid to open up his boss to a flood of emails.
1st look at new court. Love Mark Coyle’s bold decision to change this. Make sure to email him or shout to him in public your thoughts! pic.twitter.com/LLXUI35NOn— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) August 8, 2018
His assimilation into the Minnesota culture is a work in progress, though.
It’s been 5 years living in Minnesota and for the life of me I cant master the huge smile on my face when I cut someone off in traffic like my fav Minnesotans can. It’s impressive! #minnesotanice— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) October 21, 2018
Now this is where I open the floor for comments about how Pitino should spend less time Tweeting and more time worrying about coaching the basketball team.