Richard Pitino Will Need To Deliver Quickly for Minnesota Golden Gophers

By Brian Lester
Nelson Chenault – USA TODAY Sports Images

We all know that Richard Pitino wasn’t the golden candidate Minnesota wanted as its next head coach.

Shaka Smart, Fred Hoiberg, Flip Saunders. They were on the top of the list.

All of them said no, so now Pitino will have to do because the Golden Gophers were running out of coaches to go after to fill the void created by the firing of Tubby Smith.

Pitino had been coaching at Florida International and the Panthers finished 11-9 in the Sun Belt Conference this year, the most wins since the program joined the league during the 1998-99 campaign. The Panthers were 18-14 overall in Pitino’s  only season as the head coach.

Pitino doesn’t have a  lot of coaching experience, and you have to wonder how he will handle the more intense spotlight that will follow him to Big Ten country.

I still don’t think it was the best idea for Minnesota to get rid of Smith. The Golden Gophers should have given him at least one more season.

The problem with getting rid of Smith is that he is being replaced by a coach who really hasn’t proven himself at a high level. Yes, he has worked his dad, Rick, one of the best in the business. And he also spent time working with Billy Donovan at Florida.

So he has been around good coaches and having his dad to turn to for advice is certainly a benefit.

But Minnesota and Florida International are in two different basketball worlds. Pitino is coming with the expectation that he will turn the Golden Gophers into one of the powerhouse programs in the conference.

The Golden Gophers are counting on their gamble to pay off. Pitino better hope he can make that happen.

Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993.

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