Minnesota Head Coach, Richard Pitino
Dave Revsine – Have to focus a little bit on last year in order to move past it. How do you wipe the slate clean with some guys who had some tough experiences on the court? They lost a lot of games. (Richard Pitino) “I had two meetings before our 1st official practice. One was w/the returners. The 2nd one was w/the newcomers. I talked to the returners I said guys you know and I know this is a totally different team and it’s a team we believe to be very good. But we are going to sit here today and say how did we grow from last year’s team. How have I grown as a coach? How has the staff grown as well? You players are the same as you were last season, makin g the same mistakes and not learning then that wasn’t valuable to us. I think they go that. Then I told them the newcomers, we have 6 guys, all 6 of you, you need to make an impact. Three of you were transfers. One of you is a 5th year transfer and was a very good player for a very good team. Then two sat out. Davonte got injured. Then our freshman class, Eric Curry, Amir Coffey, Michale Hurt, and Brady Rudrud, you guys are the only one who have an excuse moving forward because you’re young. I think the guys get that and they’re really excited to play.”
(Revsine) – What’s your biggest challenge as you try to fit those pieces together because in talking to you last season before games, you said we’re going to be totally different next season. We’ve got a ton of talent in the pipeline. So what’s the challenge when you get that talent of figuring out really quickly how to fit those pieces together? (Pitino) “I don’t look at last year was young and they got to grow into this year. I do feel this is a totally different team. Because the young guys will play, the transfers will play. Reggie Lynch legitimately will play major minutes. Akeem Springs will play major minutes. Then obviously the freshmen as well. So I think it’s getting them to gel by getting the returners to have an influence on the new guys. You can do that in the Big 10 whatever it is you want to win. Important for the experienced guys to have a great voice in this team and I think they’ve had that so far. “
Jon Crispin – You told me I like these kids. They’re good kids. The identity is something you are feeling confident about. What is it about this team that you have so much confidence in? (Pitino) “We have really good pieces back. I think Nate Mason is one of the most under appreciated guards in the Big 10. Nobody talks about him. Which is okay, I like that as a coach. But nobody talks about him. He had an eight game stretch there he was one of the best players on the court. Jordan Murphy is another player that nobody is talking about. He was an all freshman player and he almost had no idea what he was doing. Cause he’s a freshman. So w/those two guys back they’re a great core. DuPree McBrayer was someone. He was terrific. He was probably the best (????). Reggie Lynch was a good player in a good conference. Amir Coffey is one of the best freshman out there. So that’s a lot of pieces and we got to do our job and put them together but the depth is there. We took a hit w/Davonte and the talent is there, so we’re excited.”
(Crispin) Jordan did a lot of his work last season around the basket. He’s physically strong and finished well. Are you going to move him around a little more because he is a very versatile player? He’s still young. (Pitino) “I told him don’t be tempted to move away from the bread and butter down low. Become great at it. You were good at it last season become elite at it. He’s done that. He hasn’t really ventured away from the basket too much. It’ll be a different dynamic for us. Joey King was just a pick and pop threat. Well now it’s going to be more of a pick and roll go to the block threat. Get your work done there. I think with him and Reggie we’ve got a pretty formidable, if they’re healthy, front court.”
(Crispin) What do you do to rely on locker room leadership? (Pitino) “We lost a lot of close games. Don’t think people quite grasp that. even last season was difficult. Do think we’re closer than people may think we are. What I’ve got to do is pick their confidence back up. There’s only so many speeches you can give. There’s only so many things you can say. They got to start winning. When you win it breeds more confidence. Akeem Springs, who beat us, he’s given our team a lot of confidence on how you react in order to be that. You can’t let last season to return and take away their fear. Have to understand it’s a new team. It’s a new season. Be as confident as you possibly can. “
(Crispin) Do you feel good this is a Richard Pitino team? You’ve been building. You have guys who fit your style, fit your system. Is this the type of team you’ve been hoping to see? (Pitino) ” Was always very concerned with year three. When I came there we didn’t have a lot of freshmen and sophomores. It was a difficult time to recruit a freshman, asenior high school class. I always thought we were going to have hit reset in year three. By year four we’ve really turned the corner. I think we have the team to do that this year.”
(Revsine) You were talking about Amir a little bit there. I’m interested in getting a bit more of a sense for him as a player. There’s a lot of pressure on him. No doubt. His dad, we know what a great player he was, in the league. He’s a legacy. He’s a local guy. He’s from the area. People are going to be focused on him. What kind of a realistic time frame for him to come in and really be an impact guy for you? (Pitino) “Today. Right away. He’s going to be that. He’s one of the most talented freshmen in our conference. Throughout the country. I’d like to see him score more. He’s a phenomenal passer. I’ll huddle up the offense. I’ll draw up a play. I keep looking at him, what position do you play? Because he’s so tall and he’s got so much versatility. He’s going to be a major part of it. It’s important for us to recruit our home state. We felt like we got the two best players in the state in Coffey and Hurt. But Amir has been better than I anticipated. It’s early. He hasn’t played under duress in the season just yet. But I’m very, very excited about him. I think he’s got a pretty good rep and I think it’s deservedly so.”
(Revsine) You touched on Reggie Lynch and the role he’s expected to play. He has been banged up in pre-season. What’s the timetable for him? (Pitino) “Probably a couple weeks or so. He was practicing. He’s a difference maker because we can throw it into him. He’s ready. Bakare and Gas were just not ready to play those minutes last season. It was challenging for them. Where Reggie played in a good conference for a good team. They went to the NIT. Illinois State, in a good conference. That’s something to be proud of and he was an all-conference player. We’re really, really excited about him. He’s kind of that anchor. he can block shots. He can score in the post. He really completes the team and what we are trying to do.”
Listening to Minnesota coach Richard Pitino has a nature that causes me to think he has a ton of energy on and off the court. That’s likely why he overspent his private jet travel budget over his 1st three years at Minnesota. Bet he doesn’t sleep much, either.
Anyone else think, also, he can light a player up in practice if need be? But, likeable enough he appears.
Pitino gives the impression he’s confident his team will spring a surprise on the conference in 2016-2017. I’ll be interested in whether his team can play at a high level, with great intensity, on defense. As I recall, a pressure defense at Florida International, that harvested a large number of steals, is what brought attention to his coaching skills and thereby, fostered his hiring by the Gophers to lead their school’s mens basketball program.
I’m buying the hope he and his players have. I think the Gophers will make a strong push to draw themselves into the middle pack of conference teams trying to earn an NCAA bid.
Minnesota players, Nate Mason & Jordan Murphy
(Revsine) I want to ask both of you guys the same question. How do you wipe the slate clean? (Nate Mason) “Last season was very difficult. Just coming in every day and working hard. Playing together and building that team bond. Come in and know what our focus is.” (Jordan Murphy) “I think it’s already behind us. Was a really good growing experience. We will be very overlooked this season. Think it’s a motivation. Above everything, just motivating our guys to do better. We look back on last season. We don’t want to be in that same boat again.”
(Revsine) What was coach Pitino’s message to you about the veterans moving on? (Murphy) “Time to mature and grow up. Time to start growing as a person and a player and get our business handled. Improve from last season. Play way, way better. On the upperclassmen to show the young guys what it is like to play in the Big 10 just like the four freshmen we have coming in.” (Mason) “Involvement more so as a person and a player. More of a leader. We have to lead this team. Being there for the team. Taking on that leadership role.”
Jon Crispin – “You could barely go 5 on 5 in practice last season because of injuries. How much has the competition in practice changed. You play different positions. How much has it helped? (Mason) “The competition in practice, everyone’s competitive. We look forward to practice. Coaches look forward to it. It’s fun to see how much talent we got and how good we can be. Helps to focus and keep working hard.” (Murphy) “It’s super competitive in practice. The fact we have so many post men this season. So many smart and good post men, skilled. All of us can make a move and try to be stronger. Stuff like that.”
(Crispin) What’s the identity of your team, being a Richard Pitino coached team. What does that mean to you? (Mason) “Being able to get stops on defense. Last we showed a little bit of that offense. This season we want to show we can be a good team. That we can get stops on defense. Our priority is definitely defense.”
(Crispin) You had so much strength around the rim for a freshman last season. How is your game going to evolve this season? (Murphy) “Expand my game more. Take it outside just like I do around the rim. Making straight line drives. There’s no aspect of my game that doesn’t need improving. I’m not satisfied with where I’m at. Everything I need to improve on.”
(Crispin) What wil make you guys competitive this season? (Mason) “What we’ve been through as a team. We’ve had two bad seasons. In practice we’ve been fighting. Every day is a fight. We come to practice work, man. Everyone’s on the same page. “
(Crispin) How have off the court, on the court challenges helped your level of accountability to make this team good? (Murphy) “Taught me to be more perseverant. Adversity really helps me just know when I’m in a tough time I’ve been through worse. I can make it through the tough times of last season I can make it through the grind of this season. We have high aspirations. We know we can be really good and if we just play up to our potential then we’ll be fine.”
(Revsine) Who are the new guys to the program who will right away jump off the page and make a difference? (Murphy) “The guys in my book are Eric Curry, Amir Coffey, Reggie Lynch, and Akeem Springs. All four bring a lot to the table on both ends. Amir, Eric, and Akeem are all excellent passers and Reggie is a load in the post.”
Junior Nate Mason’s PG assist #s are better than a 2-1 assist/turnover ratio. Soph Jordan Murphy, 6’6-240 lbs, went for nearly 12 ppg and 8 rebounds each game last season. These two skilled veterans hope to lead. There are a number of newcomers who may have an impact. Minnesota hasn’t faired well lately in conference so this is a big season for Richard Pitino’s program. Intriguing drama.