Did Minnesota Golden Gophers Make the Right Hire With Richard Pitino?

By Paul Seaver
Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports

Just two days after former Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith was named to the same position at Texas Tech, the Golden Gophers moved forward themselves by hiring Florida International‘s Richard Pitino.

Reports began circulating on Wednesday afternoon that the two sides were in discussions and that a deal was “all but done.” Richard is the son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and as the Cardinals prepare for Saturday’s Final Four contest against No. 9 Wichita State, Richard will be preparing for a move to Big Ten country.

According to a report from ESPN, Arizona State assistant coach Eric Musselman was told not to fly out for his interview with Minnesota, simply because the Gophers had already found their man.

Pitino is 30 years old and has one year of head coaching experience (2012-13 season with FIU). He worked his way up with assistant coaching stints at Northeastern, Duquesne, Louisville and Florida. After Florida International was hoping that Pitino would help be the young, big name that could make them relevant in the Sun Belt, he bolted — but who would blame him?

Minnesota came calling and Pitino was obviously their guy. Athletic Director Norwood Teague once hired a young, big school assistant named Shaka Smart to take over at VCU and that certainly worked out. With that being said however, there are no guarantees this will work out the same way.

Pitino is a big name, but he’s not his father.

Could he be? Sure, but let’s not go crazy on the day of his hiring at Minnesota.

Minnesota wanted to make a big splash with this hire and while Pitino has the potential to live up to that bill, it’s still is a bit of risk. Pitino is young and has only 18 wins to his name. Teague hired Smart at VCU and despite the success that they have had since, the Rams weren’t a legitimate national threat prior to that move. Pitino will be in the spotlight of the Big Ten and for Minnesota’s sake, they better hope this is the “splash” that they wanted.

Bob Knight was a big name and when he left Texas Tech, his son Pat Knight took over. That didn’t pan out too well and Pat has now re-adjusted at the mid-major level with Lamar. We won’t compare Knight to Pitino, but the example speaks for itself.

Minnesota is putting a lot of trust in a young head coach who has 18 total wins in his career. Pitino will get time and he very well could succeed with this incredible opportunity, but only time will tell if Minnesota made the right hire here in 2013.


Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS


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