Richard Pitino Blog - Practice, Upcoming Scrimmages & More

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Good afternoon Gopher fans!  

I am currently en route back from the west coast on a recruiting trip. Our guys had two very good practices this week on Monday and Tuesday. The second practice of the week was the most competitive. It was the first time I saw our team take pride in the press. It was our players first look at our 2-2-1 and 2-3 zone. Or as my assistant and loyal Big Ten traditionalist Ben Johnson calls it "junk defense." One of the keys to building a culture is getting to a point where our players hold each other accountable on their own. Every good team I have been a part of has had that element. Tuesday was the first time I saw our guys do that. That is always very encouraging to see.

Coach Pitino previews the Gophers upcoming practices and open scrimmage on Oct. 18.

Starting this Saturday, we will have one maroon/gold scrimmage each week leading up to our first exhibition game. In each of these scrimmages we will play four, eight minute quarters and give them one media timeout under four minutes. We will have three referees and keep stats. We will try to make it as much like a game like as possible. In the first scrimmage, I will split up the staff and have each of them coach a team. This was always good for my development as a coach. It is also very entertaining to see which assistant coach has a few tricks up his sleeve. The safe bet would be that Coach Dan "Naismith" McHale comes out of a timeout with some defense that we have never worked on.

Next Friday, we will have another scrimmage open to the public. More info can be found here. This will be a good opportunity for us to see how our student-athletes perform in front of fans. It is important for us to open our doors and give our loyal fans a look at the progress of our program. Many people have asked me my expectations for the year. It's very difficult for to speculate on wins and losses. I hope that on Nov. 8, when we play Lehigh, our coaching staff and fans will see a group of guys that leave everything out on the court.  We won't have a "two, three, or four year plan."  We will focus on a one-day plan. There is no point in dwelling on the past or concerning ourselves with the future. The goal will be to get the most out of each other every day.

Congratulations to Willie Burton, Al Nolen and Randy Carter!  All three received their degrees from the University of Minnesota over the summer. The group of former players that we have is so strong and we appreciate all their support. I really enjoyed catching up with Bobby Jackson last week. It's nice to see him get a job with an NBA team in the city he loves so much. Many of our former players end up staying in Minneapolis, even having grown up in other parts of the country. We saw a few former Gophers at our football game recently: Damian Johnson, Kerry Wooldridge, Richard Coffey, Walter Bond, Quincy Lewis - all returned to Minneapolis after college because they enjoy the city.

Coach Pitino says Blake Hoffarber embodies the "Gopher Experience".

On the other side of the coin, it's been great meeting the former players that wanted to play in front of their hometown crowd and the reasons they wanted to stay "home." I have met and heard about several former players that grew up in Minnesota and are new in their careers - John Thomas at Lifetime Fitness, Jamal Abu-Shamala and Travis Busch in medical device sales, and Blake Hoffarber who embodies the full "Gopher Experience."  He and his family are in the stands at Williams Arena for every game. He was an outstanding student at the Carlson School of Management, took advantage of the thriving business community in Minneapolis/St Paul by interning with Cargill in the summers, and then had several different job offers after college. He had a hard time deciding what job he wanted to take! Blake's basketball recognition, his popularity around the state of Minnesota, and his outstanding character are what we hope for in our student-athletes.

Several publications will come out with their official rankings of colleges each year. Certainly we are rated highly in a lot of those lists, especially our highly touted Carlson School of Management, but in my opinion what makes University of Minnesota so special is the amount of opportunities that the Twin Cities provide after college. With 21 Fortune 500 companies within miles of our campus, our guys will have great job opportunities when they are done playing basketball. We talk to our players all the time about "filming a commercial" on themselves every day. You never know who you may meet! It's my hope that several of our players will get internships with the likes of a Best Buy, Target or a 3M this summer. To have those opportunities at our doorstep is special and our guys need to take advantage of it!  

It's a big weekend for Gopher Athletics! Good luck to Men's Hockey, Women's Hockey and Volleyball who all take on conference opponents this weekend!

Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino

Come out to the Gophers First Look "Raise the Barn" scrimmage on Oct. 18!

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