By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach Rich Pitino is here.

But what does it mean to the local basketball community?

Pitino will have to first connect with the state’s coaches.

He’ll also need to try and land the Tyus Jones-led junior class.

It’s more than that, too. It’s identifying local talent. It’s finding a person you can develop.

“Look at a guy I coached last year, like Russ Smith,” Pitino said. “He may be the best player in the county. But he couldn’t play for us as a freshman at Louisville. And now you look at what he’s been able to do now — it’s all been through hard work.”

Former Gopher Rodney Williams knows the game. He was highly recruited out of Cooper.

“You see a lot of programs from out of state that are sending kids (to the NBA) – one and done,” Williams said. “Everyone wants to get at money.”

But at least today, the locals can be optimistic that the new hire, Pitino, just may work.


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