Pitino visits New Ulm
NEW ULM – Richard Pitino said that he does not feel like he is following in his father’s footsteps when he became the new head men’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota.
“I am more embraced in the fact that I am his son,” Pitino said Friday at Tuner Hall as he and seven other U of M head coaches and Athletic Director Norwood Teague stopped in New Ulm.
“As for being the Minnesota coach, I can see how proud this state is in their athletics and that humbles me to be their head basketball coach.”
Pitino knows that there may be comparisons made to him and his father, Rick, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville.
“But I do not look at it like that,” he said. “He is my father – I am proud to be his son – but I am not trying to live up to what he has done. I have only won 18 games as a coach (at Florida International University last year) while he was won over 600.”
I am coaching in the best league [Big Ten] in all of college basketball,” Pitino said of coaching in the Big Ten. “I am going against other storied traditions and great coaches. We need to step up our game.”
Pitino knows that he enters the head Gophers’ coaching job perhaps a step behind in recruiting.
“It is never good to be late to the party,” he said. “So I have to do my best to try and make up for lost time and try and stay on top on the next class because recruiting is everything.”
The younger Pitino should know because he was a recruiter for bis father and Louisville before his one yeat stint at FIU. The players that he helped recruit won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship this year.
There has been talk about the Gophers changing their style of play to “Pitino-Ball.” But he is not sure of how much of a change the maroon and gold will do on the court.
“We will play fast,” he said. “We will get up and down the court and we will press. We will shoot a lot of 3’s and play quick. We are going to get a lot of athletes. This is the style that I have used all of my life and it is what I like to do.”
The 30-year old Pitino said that he is not afraid to dial up his father for any basketball advice.
“He is only a phone call or text message away just like (University of Florida men’s basketball coach) Billy Donovan is. I do not hide from that – I embrace that.”
When asked if he was a “born” coach, he said that he has always loved being around basketball.
“I never knew what capacity I wanted to be around it and as I got older and older, I wanted to get in the college game,” he said.
Pitino said that when a coach takes over a program, you have expectations just for today.
“If you start to plan for two or three years down the road you forget about the present and you cannot do that,” he added.
“I worry about today and building that culture that I want around this program. Everything else will take care of itself.”