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Fans Love New Gophers Coach’s Youth, Resume

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One of the biggest names in college basketball is coming to Minnesota to coach the Gophers.

Actually, it’s one of the biggest last names, but it’s still a huge deal for the program and fans.

Richard Pitino is the son of legendary coach Rick Pitino. At the age of 30, he’s had one year of head coaching experience. This past season at Florida International, Rich Pitino led them to their first winning record in 13 years.

But he’s been well schooled in the business of college basketball through his time as an assistant with his father at Louisville, and more importantly with head coach Billy Donovan at Florida.

Now, former players and fans say they hope Pitino will be the key to bringing new energy.

“I’m at all of them because if I’m not there, I’m watching the game at work,” said Gopher season-ticket holder Kristen St. Michel.

The Buffalo Wild Wings’ hostess shared her thoughts on the new coach.

“I think it’s going to be really great for them,” she said. “He seems really young, and I think he can do really great things for the team. We got a lot of young players coming back.”

And former Gopher, and now radio commentator, Spencer Tollackson says he thinks St. Michel’s analysis is right on the money.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m really excited because he’s a young guy. He’s 30-years-old. He’s three years older than I am.”

Tollackson says he thinks Pitino’s young age will help to attract high school standouts.

“You gotta be able to relate to these guys,” he said. “And I think he’ll be able to do that.”

Tollackson says his record as a first-year head coach speaks for itself.

“(FIU) hadn’t had a winning season since the 99-2000 season, and this year, they had 18 wins,” he said.

Rich Pitino will be introduced as the new Gophers men’s basketball coach at a news conference at 9 a.m. Friday. It will be held at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

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