JF

Congratulations on your new job! I’m sure you are excited for your first big time coaching job. While the weather is better in south Florida, the basketball is better up here, and the weather can be nice too.

By now you have been on the job for a couple of weeks, and those who have been watching closely appreciate your work ethic.   Hitting the recruiting trail hard is a must, and you’ll need good players to have a good basketball team in the Big Ten, especially at Minnesota. You have some  work to do off the court and off the recruiting trail too. You need to recruit us.

Everyone loves a winner, or so I’ve been told. We don’t have many winners up here, so our eternal love for a winning coach has been merely hypothetical for the last 20 years. If you somehow lead a team to the Final Four or the Elite eight, without cheating of course, you’ll have a lifetime contract, an arena named after you, and a bronze statue outside of the arena. You have the drive, attitude, and experience to build University of Minnesota basketball program into something special, if you have enough time. However, the key to your success is to get enough time. The fact of the matter is that you’ll run into rough patches. At some point, your team won’t meet expectations. Everything that can go wrong for Minnesota sports teams has gone wrong, several times over. If you only have wins and losses to fall back on, you’ll be expendable. You need an insurance policy to keep you employed when things go wrong. You need to become one of us.

You don’t need to be one of us to win basketball games. It shouldn’t matter that you know more about bagels than about burgers stuffed with molten cheese. But to a significant number of Gopher fans, enough to make your life miserable, it does. They are already suspicious of you, and waiting for you to fail. You need to start winning them over now. You need to recruit them with the same vigor that you pursue a star high-school point guard.

Remember that actions speak louder than words. We are accustomed to coach-speak, and all the duplicity it entails.  Few will believe that you love the weather until they see you ice fishing, or biking to work while muttering about Portland, Oregon’s inferior trail system. No one will believe that you really think a big city is an asset if they don’t see out and about in the city. And about our jucy lucy obsession? It is real. Pick a side in the rivalry, and declare your undying loyalty.

Someday, hopefully  soon, a Golden Gopher basketball coach will be judged by the quality of their teams and the content of their character. However, we have not yet reached that mountain top. Until we do, you can either win so much that we don’t care where you are from, or convince your fellow provincial Minnesotans to keep you around until you do.

5 thoughts on “An open letter to Richard Pitino

  1. Remember to be a nice guy and don’t be a person like your dad. Stay off tables and loose the New York attitude. Do this and the people in Minn. will take a liken to you.

  2. Typical Kentucky comment.I have a great idea be the lying ,cheating,arrogant model coach like coach Cal.Then after they take away most of the significant wins in your career your fan base will still love you until you have to change jobs, because the NCAA investigators are once again exposing another dirty program.

  3. Good luck Richard, you certainly have the coaching pedigree to be successful. The Gopher Nation will embrace you when you produce a winner like I know you will.

  4. Remember to ignore comments of any Kentucky fans, who became sore losers the moment your dad left town. At one time, they were literally worshipping your dad, as evidenced by how fans would actually steal grass from your lawn, just to “have a part of Pitino” during the glory days he brought them in the 90s. They turned it into instant hatred the moment he accepted a job from their bitter rival, Louisville. Comments from such fans are worthless, unintelligent, and spiteful.
    Your dad showed he can achieve success with class, with respect for others, and with love for his players, and with the most successful, intelligent strategies for basketball itself. No other person in the history of college basketball has been a greater mentor, and will we see many of his admirable traits in you. You, among others who have learned from him, can reach the highest levels, and even win championships. Just ask Billy Donovan (the coach that UK was begging to get but couldn’t lure from Florida, before selecting Calipari as a second choice). We wish you the greatest success and will be pulling for you in every game, except, of course when playing Louisville. But that’s just because we’re Louisville fans. We’re now “secondarily” Minnesota fans.

  5. Without too long of a note, I can’t express how disappointing it was to watch the Gophers play the 2012-13 season. That has been replaced with a renewed sense of optimism and vigor toward the program. I was in the bleachers of Williams Arena when Mychal Thompson and Kevin McHale/Flip Saunders lost to a last-second fadeaway jumpshot by Earvin Johnson in the final game of the ’78 ? season to MSU. No Big Ten championship, no NCAA tournament bid at that time! There is no reason that MN cannot have that level of excitement and play again. We’ve had good years with Trent Tucker, Willie Burton, and Bobby Jackson since then–but all tarnished. Do it right!

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