As Richard Pitino coached his Minnesota Golden Gophers to an NIT championship on Thursday, the TV cameras seemed to find his famous father, Rick, just as often as they focused on the son. When the younger Pitino left Florida International to take the Gophers coaching job last April, his well-known surname was the only thing many Minnesotans knew about him. Yet now that Richard Pitino has one season in the books after taking over at Minnesota, he's proven that he can in fact coach. With an NIT title to his name in just one year with the Gophers, Pitino's first season at Minnesota has to be considered a success. Before the 2013-14 season began, reaching the NCAA tournament seemed like a lofty goal for a Minnesota team that just lost two vital seniors in Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. Pitino even tried to temper expectations when he took over, admitting that he had some work to do after inheriting what former coach Tubby Smith left behind. Amid all of that, though, the Gophers just missed out on the NCAA tournament as a bubble team and instead accepted an invitation to the NIT. Including Thursday's 65-63 win over Southern Methodist and 73-year-old Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, the Gophers closed out their season with a 25-13 record -- the most wins in a season in school history, not counting the vacated 31-win 1996-97 season. Minnesota went 8-10 in Big Ten play this year and hung tough with the likes of Big Ten powers Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. A few of their close losses against conference foes, however, prevented the Gophers from being on the other side of the NCAA tournament bubble.
Pitino's first season with Gophers a success
Fox Sports North | Apr 6