When it came to the search for the new Gopher men's basketball coach and the eventual hiring of Richard Pitino, a couple things have become clear.
First, Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague hired his guy. Through all the background noise of who had or hadn't turned down the job or who should or shouldn't be considered, Teague worked his channels, kept his communications and leaks to a minimum. In the initial press conference announcing that Tubby Smith was being relieved of his duties, Teague made it clear to the media assembled at TCF Bank Stadium that there would be no updates until a coach would be hired. Like it or not, he stuck to those words.
Second, with all the talk of the Villa-7 the Pitino name never surfaced until earlier this morning. When all the guessing surrounded the guys in Villa-7, it was his relationship with Florida head coach Billy Donovan that proved to hold the key to the new hire. When Teague was the athletic director at Virginia Commonwealth, it was Donovan's staff that produced Anthony Grant, who would later make the move to Alabama, then current VCU head coach Shaka Smart. Pitino served as an assistant under Donovan for two years (2009-2011) before becoming the head coach at Florida International University on April 16, 2012.
While it has been reported that Smart received and declined an offer to become the new Gophers head coach, Grant was also linked to the search and was reportedly in Minneapolis for a face-to-face meeting with Teague. Time will tell if any or all of those reports are accurate.
Ready for Primetime?
Arguments can be made as to the legitimacy of the Gopher program at this stage. We will save that for another post, another day. The biggest question about the Pitino hire is the readiness of him to lead a program in a major conference. In his one season at FIU, Pitino finished with an 18-14 record leading the Golden Panthers to their first winning season in over a decade.
Pitino will quickly find his recruiting chops as the big-three junior class of Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis await his arrival here in what is quietly turning into a nice recruiting ground in the high school scene.
Earlier Wednesday Gophers recruit Alvin Ellis rescinded his letter of intent opting to move on due to the lack of a Gophers coach. Ellis stated he would be open to re-committing if the coach provided the right situation.
As of late Wednesday afternoon no official announcement had been made by the University confirming the reports.