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Georgetown Head Coach Candidate: Richard Pitino

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Minnesota vs Middle Tennessee State James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Casual Hoya’s award-winning head coaching candidate series rolls on with the University of Minnesota’s Richard Pitino. There have been rumblings that Pitino may be interested in the Georgetown job. But is he ready?

As you likely already know or deduced, Richard Pitino is the son and namesake of Louisville’s hall of fame coach Rick Pitino. Richard went into the family business early, working as a manager while a student at Providence, a program that his father had taken to the Final Four two decades earlier. After graduation, Richard became an itinerant assistant coach, making six stops in eight years, including twice working for his father at Louisville and serving for two years as an assistant on Billy Donovan’s staff at Florida. In 2012, Pitiñito was hired as the head coach at Florida International, succeeding Isiah Thomas. Ricky only spent only one season in Miami, almost making the NCAA Tournament, before making the leap to Minnesota.

Pitino’s tenure with the Golden Gophers has been uneven, albeit with hints of progress lately. He took over a program that had been modestly successful but a bit stale under Tubby Smith, advancing to the Round of 32 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament before Smith was fired. In its first season under Pitino, a largely overhauled Gophers roster won the NIT. The next two teams regressed as Pitino struggled to attract top-tier talent to Minneapolis, bottoming out in 2015-16 with an 8-23 record. That only told part of the story, as the team was marred by a series of off-the-court incidents. In ‘14-’15, two players were dismissed from the team, one for being charged with assaulting his girlfriend, to which he later pled guilty. Freshman point guard (and DMV product) Kevin Dorsey reportedly tweeted out a video of him and another man engaged in a sexual encounter with a woman. Dorsey and two other Gophers were eventually suspended, with Dorsey eventually transferring.

With those issues in the rearview, this year was a breath of fresh air. Pitino brought in Amir Coffey, a top-50 recruit, while previous talented recruiting classes developed. The Gophers finished 24-10 thanks to a top-25 defense, earning their first trip to the Dance since the Tubby era.

Pitino’s teams play fast and hard, an aesthetically pleasing open-court style reminiscent in some ways of his father’s teams. He’s shown the ability to recruit to Minnesota—not an easy task—by landing in-state talent like Coffey as well as out-of-state recruits like four-star 2017 point guard Isaiah Washington, whom the Gophers plucked from New York. Pitino’s name, one of the most famous in the sport, would carry weight with recruits.

But there are concerns as well. Hiring Pitino, who’s just 34, would be a big bet. While he’s done well turning around FIU and appears to be rebuilding Minnesota, he has appeared in just a single NCAA Tournament game, which came this year when his team lost to — gulp — a double-digit seed. That was a very talented Middle Tennessee State team, but Hoya fans may not view a justifiable loss to a plucky mid-major as an attractive resume line. Pitino’s down years in Minnesota were accompanied by scandal, which won’t fly at Georgetown, particularly his father’s teams’ issues with off-the-court behavior. And while Georgetown presumably is looking for a coach it can rely on long-term, Pitino has jumped from one stop to the next.

Ultimately, Richard Pitino looks like a promising young coaching candidate but maybe not the best fit for Georgetown at this time.

Desirability Rating: 3 out of 10.


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