Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome Aboard, Rick Pitino's Kid

The Gophers have hired a replacement for Tubby Smith, rarely quickly actually despite the perception that the search was dragging, and they've gone with Rich Pitino, Rick Pitino's son and most recently the head coach of the Florida International Panthers out of the Sun Belt Conference.  And, frankly, this is the kind of hire where if anybody tries to definitively tell you it's either a great or a horrible hire you should really punch them in the face because we simply won't know until a few years down the road. 

Either way, this is a ballsy hire.  Going for a 30-year old with exactly one year of head coaching experience under his belt - well, ask Todd Lickliter how touch it can be to move up from a mid-major (although the Sun Belt may have trended towards the low majors at this point) and Lickliter had six years at Butler before getting demolished in the Big 10.  The main thing we know about our new Pitino is that he took FIU from 8-21 to 18-14 and came within two points of making the NCAA Tournament - so that's good.  What else do we know?

Well, since 2007 he's either been an assistant at Louisville or Florida or an associate head coach at Louisville - these two programs excite me greatly.  Both the Cardinals and Gators are known for extreme pressure defense, particularly on the perimeter, and outstanding guard play.  I like all of those words.  It looks like he tried to do the same thing last year at FIU with mixed success.  The Panthers were fifth in the entire country in forcing turnovers and eleventh in creating steals while defending the three point line well but they got shredded on 2-pointers.  They were also a big-time uptempo team (48th fastest) but turned it over too much themselves to be remotely efficient (272nd in turnovers).  It's also worth noting that although he turned the team around compared to the prior season record-wise, he also had five starters departing and nine new players, so it's not like he was taking over a preexisting squad - he created that semi-succesful FIU team.

Recruiting-wise, who knows?  Louisville and Florida perennially had great classes, but they both kind of sell themselves and I'm guessing neither the elder Pitino nor Billy Donovan need a whole lot of help selling their programs.  I tried to track down some info on how involved but it's tough.  I found a few references about him "helping Louisville build back-to-back top 15 classes" and he was able to bring in 8 new recruits very quickly after being hired at FIU, but running your own program and doing it at this level is a whole new experience so who knows.

For now?  I'm on board.  I love Rick Pitino and I love Billy Donovan and both have had Richard as a key part of their staff and both Louisville and Florida play a style I'd like to see the Gophers adopt and it looks like Pitino tried to install that at FIU last year (and mostly succeeded, given what he had to work with).  Pitino is one of the few hires left who can give you the combination of a "name" as well as being a young, up and coming coach. 

I trust Teague, and I love Pitino.  What could possibly go wrong?

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