How Does Richard Pitino Still Have a Job? (2020 Edition)
I wanted my final feelings on Richard Pitino to be heard before the Gophers took the Kohl Center court tonight in Madison… and i just made it. Neither a blowout loss nor a miracle win, even if Pitino finds NCAA eligibility and hits a miracle game-winning shot himself…. is changing my mind.
It’s time for Richard Pitino to go…
The more you dig into Pitino’s tenure at the University of Minnesota, the worse it gets. His record of 47-80 (.370) in the Big Ten is worse than both Tubby Smith’s 46-62 (.426) tenure and even his predecessor, Dan Monson’s 44-68 (.393) Big Ten record.
Remember, Monson took over the program right after the Clem Haskins academic scandal that stripped away 1997’s Final Four run and made Minnesota the scapegoat of all past and future academic violations. Monson turned the Minnesota job down twice, before finally accepting, which he immediately regretted.
If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend Marcus Fuller’s (Star Tribune) piece in this morning’s paper, about the Gopher Men’s basketball program since Clem Haskins. It’s an incredible article.
Not only has Richard Pitino coached at Minnesota without any sanctions or recently stripped Final Four banners, but he also has some of the best facilities in the NCAA, to help improve his current crop of players while also making the program easier to sell to the future.
But… he’s failed there too. If the worst Big Ten winning percentage of the last 20 years isn’t enough, let’s talk recruiting…
When Clem Haskins and Dan Monson were coaching in Minnesota, you didn’t want kids to stay home. We were a hockey state and the talent coming out of Minnesota for basketball proved that. Sure, you found some gems here and there, but most of your recruiting was done out of state, if you wanted to be a good college team in Minnesota.
When those diamonds emerged out of the rough though, previous coaches pounced and landed them… over the blue bloods. According to Fuller’s piece this morning, Rick Rickert was committed to Arizona back in 2001 before he pulled back and went with the Gophers (fresh off scandal). Kris Humphries was committed to Duke, before he pulled out and stayed home in 2003 (scandal still pretty fresh). Both guys were recruited and coached by Dan Monson. Humphries was also the last Minnesota Gopher to be drafted into the NBA….
Those were really the only two basketball players from Minnesota to even have an opportunity to leave town… and they stayed. Yet Richard Pitino has had 15 kids over the last 3 years, that have opted for blue blood schools, instead of staying home. He has gotten 0 to stay. Daniel Oturu was the last one, and as Darren Wolfson tweeted last week, he was staying home even if you and I were coaching.
I think if you were the coach Oturu was coming here. But he’s here and Pitino helped develop him.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) February 27, 2020
It sounds like most of Richard Pitino’s problems can be traced back to recruiting, 2017. During that season, Pitino was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and had a really good team. Unfortunately like many of Pitino’s teams, it was thin and late-season injuries led to an upset loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Turns out, that wasn’t Richard’s biggest loss in 2017. McKinley Wright is one of the best PG’s in the country now, as a Junior for the University of Colorado. Back then though, he was a high school kid looking for a college where he could learn a lot and play high-level basketball. Marcus Fuller makes it seem like he was pretty much in Richard’s bag, too… until Pitino took New York PG, Isaiah Washington instead.
On paper, that didn’t seem like a bad decision at the time. Sure, Wright was from Minnesota, but Washington was rated the #62 recruit in the country and McKinley was #229. Wright’s AAU teammates (and fellow Minnesotans) would never give Pitino the benefit of that hindsight, though. (that’s called foreshadowing)
McKinley shined right away at Colorado, averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 1 steal per game as a Freshman. Washington on the other hand… was terrible from the beginning and transferred after his Sophomore year.
Pitino taking Washington instead of Wright, might as well have been the writing on the wall, even 3 years later. Wright played for the “D1 Minnesota” AAU team. Remember those 15 blue-blood type prospects that have left the state over the last 3 years??? Almost all of them played AAU ball for D1 Minnesota. None of them would pick Minnesota and all signs point back to taking Jelly over Wright.
We don’t know that we would have seen more D1 Minnesota kids commit to the University of Minnesota, had Pitino taken McKinley Wright. However, if Marcus Fuller is all but saying that, in the Sunday Edition of the Star Tribune…. then smoke probably equals fire.
If Pitino can’t keep the best Minnesota kids in-state… can’t get better ones from out-of-state… and can’t even win at the same level of his two most-recent predecessors (who got fired for losing too much)… then what the fuck are we doing here?
The game in Madison starts in 20 minutes. I don’t care if he wins, loses, or draws….. get Richard Pitino the fuck out of town after. Don’t even wait until the end of the season.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan