Richard Pitino Should be Coaching for His Job Leading into March

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino shouts instructions to his players as they play Illinois in the first half at of a NCAA basketball game at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Pioneer Press / John Autey)

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This last weekend the Gopher men’s basketball team went on the road to watch Magic Johnson and Co. celebrate their 1979 National Championship and to play a basketball game vs. the 2018-19 Michigan State Spartans. The basketball game got out of hand quickly and I was negative right away… but per usual, my dear father’s negativity far exceeded my own.

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My dad’s text didn’t surprise me. He’s had one foot off of the Little Ricky bandwagon since last year went sour.

Honestly, I don’t know where I sit on Richard Pitino right now. It’s sad because I started my writing career and opened this website two years ago (almost to the day) with a piece about jumping on the Richard Pitino bandwagon. I thought he was the guy. Then later that season, after going 8-23 the year before, Pitino shocked most of Minnesota (and the nation) by leading a promising young Gophers squad to a 24-10 record and a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament (and a first round exit vs. Middle Tennessee State).

Back then, the Gophers had youngsters Jordan Murphy (SO) and Dupree McBrayer (SO), next to veterans (but not seniors) in Nate Mason (JR) and Reggie Lynch (JR). Akeem Springs (SR) was the sharpshooter the team so desperately needed and he seemed to be loving it in Minnesota as a graduate transfer.

Our Freshman looked like some of the best we’d seen in a long time. Amir Coffey was the local kid who bucked the trend of leaving for blue blood offers, instead choosing to stay home to be part of a solution. Coffey wasn’t the only big-time Freshman, though. Unheralded Eric Curry looked much better than advertised too. It was a fun season. The 1st-round NCAA tournament loss was disappointing but the future was bright.

The 2017-18 season started where the year before ended, when a then-seasoned and much more polished Gopher team destroyed their early 2017 schedule, jumping out to a 13-3 start. But just as they entered the meat of Big Ten play, we found out that Reggie Lynch was being investigated by the EOAA and that he was being recommended for expulsion; while at the same time, big-time players were dropping like flies due to injury. 

Nate Mason dealt with injuries all season long and so did Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer. Oh yeah, and Eric Curry was lost for the season VERY early with a torn ACL. The 2017-18 season couldn’t have played out any worse no matter how scary the movie you were watching. They finished 15-17. It was a shit show. Only two wins in their last 16 games. It was ugly all around.

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And here we are now, flirting with another season vacant of an NCAA Tournament birth… and the blame falls on Richard Pitino.

There are 3 glaring weaknesses on the 2018-19 Minnesota Gophers, who have dropped their last 3 games and now sit at 16-8 overall and under .500 in Big Ten play at 6-7.

The ugliest weakness is the lack of outside shooting. We’ve discussed it at nauseum on this website. Nobody can shoot and it’s been even worse lately. The law of averages says something needs to change soon but Pitino hasn’t done much in the game plan to make things better. Examples might include more minutes and more play calls for Brock Stull or a lot more offensive sets that focus on getting Gabe Kalscheur open, since he’s the only guy on the team (who plays regular minutes) that can consistently knock anything down beyond 13 feet.

Lack of point guard play is the second weakness that sticks out every game. Again, Pitino put his PG future in Isaiah Washington’s hands without much of a backup plan. It’s been an absolute disaster. Outside of a few nice games, Washington has been bad… even unplayable at times. Without a natural PG, the Gophers are left to an offense that doesn’t have a captain. Because of that, off-guards are playing point and that trickles down to others playing out of position too.

Marcus Carr would’ve helped but you can only control what you can control… or so the saying goes.

Lastly, the free throw shooting woes are crippling. Overlooked in today’s game far too often now, and we’re just supposed to accept the idea that free throws aren’t free anymore. That leaving double-digit points on the table is just part of the new-age game.

Bullshit. For 95% of basketball players, free throws are fixable and shooting 68% (good for 259th in the NCAA) is absolutely unacceptable for this Gophers squad.

These three disaster areas are all on Richard Pitino. They are caused by poor recruiting decisions, poor planning, and bad coaching.

I really like Little Ricky. His personality, radio appearances, twitter account, and his dad…. all make him very likable. But, I don’t really give a shit about Richard Pitino as a Gophers coach. When it comes to that, I care about winning. 

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Winning starts with good recruiting and that’s not going well right now either. Little Ricky’s 2019 class is VERY thin, with only 1 commit out of 4-5 opens sports. Hope for a Matthew Hurt commitment is all but out the window, according to those in the know. It’s still early but the 2020 cupboards are currently bare too

Cutting Pitino from the payroll has never been easier than it is right now so Richard better start winning games and stop giving Coyle reasons to cut the string.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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