Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – New University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino’s arrival at Williams Arena wasn’t quite the reception Tubby Smith received six years ago.
Some of that may have had to do with the fact that his press conference was at 9 a.m. Or maybe because despite his well-known last name, fans don’t know much about Pitino.
“My first reaction was, ‘Who’s that?’ But then the more I heard about it, the more excited we got about it,” Gophers fan Mary Erdman said.
And the more they heard from the man himself, the more intrigued they became.
“I think it’s exciting to know he wants to play an up-tempo style,” former Gophers player Jay Kiedrowski said. “A lot of players like that style and it will be interesting to see how it goes in the Big Ten.”
During the press conference, Pitino said he isn’t trying to be like his legendary father Rick, who coaches Louisville, or Florida coach Billy Donovan, who he was also an assistant under. He said he plans on being himself and running his own program.
That was good enough for season ticket-holder Jason Gilbert. He may have gotten the first autograph from coach Pitino on his Gophers basketball.
“This ball has not been dribbled yet,” Gilbert said. “Hopefully I will put it in a safe place and it might be worth something someday.’
There’s time to find out. Pitino is just 30 years old, but to most Gophers fans that doesn’t seem to matter.
“I don’t think age is an issue,” fan Chris Howell said. “I think experience is. Some people have a lot of experience at 30 that others don’t have at 40.”