***EDIT 9:10 PM Monday 3/15
Mark Coyle has made it official. Pitino has been let go.
Director of Athletics Mark Coyle makes change in men’s basketball leadership.https://t.co/sPaEMtt2r1— Minnesota Men's Basketball (@GopherMBB) March 16, 2021
It really should come as no shock that the University of Minnesota has relieved Richard Pitino of his basketball coaching duties. Mark Coyle will begin the search for the program’s next head basketball coach.
BREAKING: Minnesota is expected to part ways with Richard Pitino, sources told @Stadium.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 15, 2021
It is still believed that Pitino is a finalist for the New Mexico job, meaning the University will not be responsible for his contractual buyout.
Pitino was hired by former Athletic Director Norwood Teague after 1 season as a head coach at Florida International. Obviously the son of Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino, the younger Pitino was initially the youngest head coach of a power 5 program.
It was an inconsistent, up and down, tenure for Pitino. The highs were 25 wins and an NIT Championship in his first season, it was a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and it was winning only the program’s 2nd NCAA Tournament game since 1997 in 2019. But the lows were pretty bad. Going 2-16 and 4-14 in the Big Ten in 2016 and 2018 respectively, along with several February collapses.
These February collapses, especially over the last 4 seasons where they have gone 7-22 in the month of February, have been really hard to watch. It is an indication, over these 4 seasons, that the team was not getting better throughout the season.
Particularly this year’s team was rather frustrating. After beating teams who are going to be at or near the top of the NCAA Tournament seed pyramid, they would eventually look utterly uncompetitive against the bottom third of the conference. Losing to Northwestern and at Nebraska were the low points of this season as they were short-handed and sputtered, finishing with a 7-game losing streak to finish the regular season.
Overall it is this author’s opinion that Pitino really was not “bad” at any particular aspect of this job. But he really didn’t particularly excel at anything either. Leading to year after year of teams that were inconsistent and really just never grabbed you as a team
Recruiting was fine. He missed on many local kids who most certainly would have contributed, but also landed Amir Coffey, Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur from within our borders. Nationally he brought in guys like Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy who became all-time program greats. But of course had some pretty big swings that missed as well.
His teams played solid defense and ran decent offenses, according to the metrics. But they never really dominated in any particular phase.
If he excelled at anything, it was probably how well he PR, social media presence and generally allowing his wit and sarcasm to come through in a good way. Some coaches seem to struggle to lead a program, that wasn’t the case here. There were some moments of bad luck, a couple key recruiting missteps and he could never get the program to take another step.
Overall, there was nothing I hated about tenure, also there was nothing I loved either. The results speak for themselves and 54-96 Big Ten record (.360) being the biggest indictment of his time here in Minnesota.
Most certainly he will find another opportunity to coach Division I basketball and very well may find success somewhere else. But it was time for his Gopher career to come to an end.
Now the program moves forward, looking for the next person to lead Gopher basketball. By all accounts this move was made behind closed doors several days ago.
We will get around to coaching candidates and what Coyle should be looking for in a coach over the next few days. Coverage here should be fast and furious.