Pitino Blog: Surprise

In the spirit of the MLB All Star Game, I decided to throw our guys a curveball last night.  

I surprised our players and staff by telling them we would practice this morning at 6 a.m., for just under an hour. The news was met with great enthusiasm.  It was a good way to break up the monotony of individual instruction and get them to play together a bit.  I did my best to stay away from them this summer; I am sure my staff won a lot of friendly bets around the office about how soon I would have practice.  

My main message before practice was that we won a title last year.  It was a championship that we are all proud of - it was difficult to win and we learned a lot about ourselves in the process.  With that being said, it's time to take the next step as a team and a basketball program.  My expectations for them this season will be MUCH higher.

We started practice with a lot of defense.  This was a good opportunity to teach the new guys our defensive principles and philosophies.  As expected the incoming players have a long way to go.
There is no doubt in my mind they will get there.  To finish practice I put in two plays and let them scrimmage a bit.  We definitely look quicker and much more athletic than last year's team.  

Below are some first impressions of each player...

Zach Lofton - impressed me with his playmaking ability.  He has outstanding potential.

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Coach Pitino says Andre Hollins is healthy and poised for a breakout year.

Andre Hollins - Came back healthy and in great shape.  Breakout year coming.

Elliott Eliason - Body looks great, finished everything today.

Mo Walker - Had some big time moves in the paint.  Would love to see him still get stronger and quicker.

DeAndre Mathieu- still recovering from Day Day beating him in one-on-one last week.  Hopefully he will get over it by November 14th.

Josh Martin- Rodney Williams-esque athlete.  Still has to learn how to play.  Very excited about his potential.

Carlos "Squirrel" Morris- Has put on 15 pounds and has about 15 more to go.  Long arms.  Could be a great defender.

Daquein "Day Day" McNeil- I told him yesterday to come to practice a confident player. He walked in this morning with a gold jersey on.  Traditionally, in practice maroon is the first team and gold is the second team. Everyone should walk into the first day of practice with a maroon jersey on!  He has a chance to make a big jump from last year.

Joey King- Typical Joey.  Efficient offensively and a great understanding of how to play.  You win with guys like Joey.  He has put on 15 pounds of muscle.

Nate Mason- Really impressed me defensively.  Has very quick feet.

Charles Buggs- did not play, rehabbing after knee surgery.  Looked like he was preparing for the Tour de France all practice.

Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou- will be here when school starts in September.


Coach Saunders and his staff were kind enough to invite me to the Timberwolves summer league practice Monday evening.  His staff does an unbelievable job.  I was blown away by Zach LaVine.  He has a chance to be special!  I was also extremely impressed with how hard Shabazz Muhammed played. He is a warrior.  Gorgui Dieng looked great as well.  Obviously I am biased when it comes to Gorgui.


My staff and I will be on the road from Wednesday to Sunday starting this week for the next three weeks.  I will be in Washington D.C., Chicago and Springfield this week.  Should be fun.  The season is right around the corner.  Can't wait!

Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino

Pitino Blog: Early Summer Update

Good morning Gopher Fans,

Hope everyone is having a great summer like we are.  Personally it has been a lot of fun welcoming my two-month-old Jack into this world. Jill, Ava, Bernie and I are extremely fortunate and lucky.

This summer has been much different than last year.  The culture has been introduced and expectations for how to operate on a daily basis have been laid out. That is always the toughest part of taking over a new job. These next few months are all about taking the next step as a team and a program.  We have had a few weeks of individual instruction so far as well as workouts in the weight room.  

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Head coach Richard Pitino gives his thoughts on the state of the Gophers.

This summer I have chosen to stay away and watch from afar.  This gives my assistant coaches an opportunity to grow as coaches because when the season starts, I am the main voice everyone hears.  It also gives our players an opportunity to get some much needed space from the pressures of being coached by the head coach.  It's a long season for everyone.  My hope is that when we start back up in the fall, our guys will be fresh and eager to get back to work.

First Impressions.....

Carlos Morris- Has put on significant weight since he has gotten here and still has a ways to go in the weight room.  I have full faith that he, with our strength coach Shaun Brown, will be ready to compete at the Big Ten level.  He will need to come in and make an immediate impact. "Squirrel" is a very good ball handler and passer; he can get to the basket and make others better on the court.  There's no reason why he can't make a difference from day one.

Nate Mason- Pleasant surprise!  Think Andre Hollins, Gopher fans - very similar games.  Nate has a great disposition on the court.  He seems unfazed at all times.  He does a little bit of everything well and can
play multiple positions.  I am very excited about his potential.

Josh Martin- I watched him work out yesterday for the first time of the summer because we have been resting him due to a minor knee issue (I repeat, MINOR).  One word when describing his athletic ability... WOW.  Josh has an infectious personality on the court and is always encouraging his teammates.  He has a chance to be a very, very good player.  Fan favorite!

Zach Lofton- The sky is the limit for Zach.  He has all the tools and talent to be a big-time guard.  Phenomenal athlete, great length and has the ability to get his shot off at any time.  We need him to be ready next year.

Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate-  Both guys are working hard physically as well as academically to finish up strong.  We expect both to be on campus and ready to go come the fall.  Very excited to coach both student-athletes.  Phenomenal kids!

Returners- Who has made the biggest jump over the summer?  This award goes to Daquein McNeil.  That small forward spot will be a fun competition.  I really like the direction Day Day is headed.

My staff and I hit the road on Wednesday to go find the next great Gopher. Recruiting has been going very well.  Year one was good, I hope year two can be GREAT.

Hope everyone has a great 4th of July!  Go Gophers!  

Richard Pitino

 

Pitino Blog: Year One in Review

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Did this year meet expectations?  That is the most commonly asked question that I have received since our NIT championship.  The answer would be 100 percent yes.  As a coach your hope is that your guys compete and get better every day.  I can honestly say 99 percent of our practices and individual instruction sessions were a success.  The guys brought it every day and that's all you can ask.

Year One under Richard Pitino resulted in a program-record 25 wins.


To go along with individual improvements, this team went on to set a school record for total number of wins in a season as well as an NIT championship.  Other statistical records we set included the most points, 3-pointers and free throws in single-season school history, as well as the second-best free throw percentage and third-most rebounds and steals.

We were also very excited to have the highest team GPA in the fall semester in the last 10 years. It's very important that our guys finish strong academically.  Austin, Maverick, Oto and Kendal will all graduate on time.  Malik still has a little work to do but he will get his degree.  Kendall will be back and Oto will be a graduate manager for us next season.  Malik, Mav, and Austin will all try to play professionally.

Here are some (unofficial) year-end awards.

MVP- Deandre Mathieu

Nobody was more consistent from top to bottom than Dre.  Incredible where he has come from to get to where he is now.  He certainly deserves all the credit.  He will also have to stay hungry because he will have a bigger reputation next season.

Most Improved- Mo Walker, Joey King (close second)

This wasn't an easy choice but to look at where Mo was last year to today is pretty impressive.  He did an unbelievable job of losing the weight; now it's time to add the muscle.  I am fully confident he and our strength coach Shaun Brown will get it done.

Best Defender- Austin Hollins

Hardest Worker- Austin Hollins ... easy pick.

Best Attitude- Maverick Ahanmisi

Sacrifice Award- Oto Osenieks

What Oto did vs. Florida State in the NIT is what being a teammate is all about.  He played through a lot of pain in that game and grabbed a huge rebound at the end.

Austin Hollins delivered the moment of the year with his game-clinching 3-pointer vs. SMU in the NIT title game.


Best Moment- Austin Hollins 3-pointer vs. SMU in the NIT Championship

That's the way a senior like Austin should end his career.  Great player, better person.  We will miss his intangibles.

The Future

Next year will be met with much higher expectations certainly than this year.  Our guys will have to be prepared to be the hunted instead of the hunter.  That won't be easy.  We will need the Barn to be the toughest place to play in the country!  As crazy as it sounds next year's schedule will be more difficult than this year's top ten strength of schedule.  We will have to be ready to compete every night!

I personally had a blast coaching this year.  My favorite moment is walking up those stairs at the beginning of the game at the Barn to take the court.  It gives me goosebumps every time.  I can't wait to do it again in a few months! 

Hope to see everyone at June for camp.  It will be fun! (For more information on the Richard Pitino Basketball Camps, visit http://www.gophersports.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/pitino-camps.html)

Go Gophers!

Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog: Breaking Down Big Ten Play

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Golden Gopher basketball is already four games into conference play, the first Big Ten action for new head coach Richard Pitino. He takes the time to rate his team's performance in each game -- Michigan, Purdue, Penn State and Michigan State.

Tuesday also saw the release of a new episode of the team's web series, "Raise the Barn," featuring point guard Deandre Mathieu. Watch above or click here to watch that video.

Richard Pitino's Gophers are 2-2 through the first four B1G games.


Michigan

Good:  We outrebounded Michigan by 14, and had 15 offensive rebounds.  Elliott having 10 rebounds in 24 minutes was big.  He has been our most consistent player.  He has earned the right to become more of a leader on our team.

Bad:  Shot selection!  We are too good of a shooting team to be shooting 26% from the 3-point line.  Typically when that happens it comes down to taking shots we don't practice.

Overall:  Oto and Elliott showed up on the glass.  Austin had 4 big steals.  We watched the film and learned that shot selection is key.  I have a great deal of respect for Coach Beilein and his program.

Purdue

Good:  We learned from our mistakes in the Michigan game.  We shot 52% against a very good Purdue defense.  Elliott played phenomenal defense on AJ Hammons who was coming off a great game against Ohio State.  Elliott had 6 blocks!  Austin played a great all around game.

Bad:  Last 6 minutes.  We miscommunicated on defense.  We used poor clock management when we had the lead. 

Overall:  Showed flashes of greatness for 33 minutes.  We executed our game plan offensively and defensively.  We made several mistakes that almost cost us a league win.

@ Penn State

Good:  DeAndre and Austin made 2 huge steals at the end of the game.  Elliott changed the game defensively.  We shot 46% from the field in the second half. 

Bad:  Negative assist to turnover ratio wasn't good.  We weren't aggressive enough defensively until the last 2 minutes.

Overall:  A road win in the Big Ten is always something to be proud of!  We found a way to win when nothing was going right. 

Deandre Mathieu and the Gophers nearly came away with an upset at No. 5 Michigan State.


@ Michigan State

Good:  We played with great poise, confidence, and fearlessness.  Every timeout our guys believed we would win the game.  We executed in the first half offensively extremely well.

Bad:  There was a lot!  I counted 50 mistakes that we made throughout the game.  Defensively we didn't execute our pick and roll coverage.  Offensively we got away from throwing the ball inside.  These mistakes will catch up to you against an opponent like Michigan State. 

Overall:  Much like Purdue we showed flashes of greatness, but we also made costly mistakes at the end of the game.  We have to establish our inside attack again.

 

Can't wait for Thursday night.  Let's show college basketball what The Barn is all about, Gopher fans!

 

Go Gophers,

Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog: Early Season Review

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Richmond - When I got the job, I looked at this game on the schedule and was very concerned.  Richmond is a well-coached team with an established winning culture. It is also a tough environment and difficult style to prepare for. Holding them without a point for over seven minutes and ending on a 19-0 run was impressive.

Richard Pitino and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim shake hands after their match-up in Maui


Syracuse - I don't believe in moral victories but I am very proud of the effort we gave. To be even on the glass without Mo Walker was great. Costly turnovers at the end of the game were just too hard to overcome. Malik Smith showed that he loves to take the big shot but I am the most proud of how much better his defense and leadership has become.

Arkansas - We came out in the first half and played potentially our best half of the year. Shot 65% from the field and played very unselfish basketball. The second half was a different story. Give Arkansas credit for playing a great overall game. I was also disappointed with our defensive intensity towards the end. Turnovers and rebounding were also a problem.

Chaminade - I know it sounds funny but this was easily the hardest game of the tournament. Our guy's bodies were finally adjusted to Maui time and it truly felt like a 9:30 a.m. start. They were tired and disappointed to be in this position. Chaminade has won that "Game 7" several times in the past and had been playing great offensively. The true character of this team came out in the second half. They had nothing to lose and we could have folded. Nothing was going right for us but our guys refused to accept losing. I was very proud of the way we finished this game.

Overall assessment of Maui - Our team was so grateful of our fan turnout for the trip. Not only did our great fans show up but they were arguably the loudest group in the tourney. We really appreciate their support and referenced the fans several times during timeouts. Overall, we played four-out-of-six great halves of basketball.  The second half of Arkansas and the first half of Chaminade were major learning experiences for us. It was an awesome tournament and we hope to be invited back again in the future. We took the red-eye back Wednesday night in hopes of getting our players bodies adjusted back to Central Time for tomorrow's game.

Coach Pitino and the Gophers went 1-2 in Maui last week.


Florida State - We will have our toughest test of the season tomorrow night at the Barn. Florida State has been battle tested early. They were up double digits on Michigan in the second half and ended up losing in overtime by two. The game before that, they blew a very good VCU team out in a game where they were up by 30. They won by double digits at Central Florida and they just lost a tough rivalry game at Florida by one point as well. They are well coached as always and physically very imposing. We must rebound the ball, keep them out of transition and not turn the ball over. Their two losses could have gone either way and they could easily be ranked top 15 if they had won those games. We need a great environment tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. Hope to see everyone there!

Scheduling - There has been some speculation about a game between us and Louisville next year. We are currently working on scheduling a game with ESPN against Louisville in Puerto Rico in a military hangar on Nov. 14.  We are 99% sure it will happen but we are just ironing out some details. We are also confirmed to play in the Preseason NIT next year around Thanksgiving time in Madison Square Garden. These are two great opportunities for our fans to travel to great locations and hopefully see some exciting basketball. We will release details on both events when everything is finalized.

See everybody tomorrow night!

Go Gophers!

Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog: Breaking Down First Look Scrimmage

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Thanks to the thousands of Gopher fans that came to the Barn on Friday night for our first open scrimmage of the season. If you missed it, you can watch highlights from the game above or click here for a recap and box score. Below are my player-by-player evaluations of how I felt each guy performed:

Gold

Charles Buggs
Positives
Did a good job of trapping in the press.  
Had a great steal.  
Attempted to offensive rebound.  
He will continue to improve.
Only a freshman.

Negatives
0 rebounds in 13 minutes.

Wally Ellenson
Positives
Played with a very high motor.  
4 offensive rebounds was great.  
9 deflections was also very encouraging.  
Has the physical ability to be a stat sheet stuffer.
He will continue to improve because he wants to get better.

Negatives
Struggled with certain things defensively in the half court - very normal for this time of year.  
Has to be ready to rotate for steals better in the press.  

Joey King
Positives-  
Took 2 charges and got three offensive rebounds.
Attempted his first two point shot in a Gopher uniform during a scrimmage!

Negatives
0 defensive rebounds and 5 fouls.  
Very willing to draw charges but is a half step slow on his rotations.

DeAndre Mathieu
Positives-  
There were a lot of them!  
9 deflections, took 11 high percentage shots.  
Showed great leadership.  
Never quit, fought through fatigue.

Negatives-  
Didn't demand the ball vs. the press.  
Had a negative assist to turnover ratio.

Kendal Shell
Positives-  
Played good defense on the ball.  
Always shows great leadership.

Negatives
None

Malik Smith
Positives-  
He didn't hurt any of our great fans with his errant passes.
He will be fine.

Negatives
1 for 9 on challenged shots.  
8 turnovers, 0 assists. 

Mo Walker
Positives
6 deflections for a big is great.  
9 rebounds and 5 offensive were a team high.  
Drew a big charge at the end of the game.
Love the direction he is headed.

Negatives
6 missed screens.  
Not a whole lot of other negatives - I was impressed.

Maroon

Maverick Ahanmisi
Positives-  
Took very good shots.  
Stayed within himself and didn't force much.  
5 defelections.

Negatives
6 turnovers and 6 fouls.

Elliott Eliason
Positives
5 rebounds was good, not great.  
Made some very nice passes out of the post.  
Ran the court well.  
Did a better job screening.  
He is getting better.

Negatives
Only 1 offensive rebound.  
Still needs to demand the ball better in the post.

Andre Hollins
Positives-  
Great defensive performance.  
Team high 10 deflections and 5 steals.  
He is showing pride in becoming a great defender.  
Effort was extraordinary.  
Didn't force anything.

Negatives-  
Only one rebound.

Austin Hollins
Positives
All positive.  
Really impressed with his overall performance.  
Very efficient.
Played great defense.  
6 deflections.
He is playing with a lot of confidence right now.

Negatives
2 turnovers - other than that he was phenomenal.

Daquien McNeil
Positives
Effort level was very good.  
4 deflections in 13 minutes.
Great attitude.

Negatives-  
4 turnovers.

Oto Osenieks
Positives-  
Best he has looked as a Gopher.  
Showed a lot of toughness.  
7 rebounds.  
Was efficient offensively.  
Very happy with the strides he took.

Negatives
4 missed screens, 2 bad turnovers against the press.

Overall-   
I am very happy with the strides we are taking as a team.  We got much tougher this scrimmage.  I showed the team a couple of clips from Louisville's scrimmage last week that my father sent me. We tried to explain to the guys that if they wanted to compete with the best they had to be as physical as the best.  I also showed them the clip of Torii Hunter trying to rob David Ortiz of a home run in the playoffs. They responded very well after watching both films. The maroon team won the game because they were the better "team."  They played together offensively and defensively.  Gold did a lot of good things but tried to do it by themselves.  I was impressed and grateful for the crowd that showed up Friday night.  That's what makes this job and program so special.  

The goal over the next couple of weeks is certainly to continue to develop on the fundamentals.  One glaring issue is the turnovers.  

Less than three weeks to our first game!
Go Gophers!

Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog - Recapping Saturday's Scrimmage

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Our team held a scrimmage on Saturday at Williams Arena, a 30-minute game that saw the Maroon team defeat the Gold team 58-55 (click here for a full box score).

I've compiled some thoughts on each players' performance and posted them here for my blog readers to see. Hope to see you on Friday for our open scrimmage - click here for more details, doors open at 6pm and tip-off is at 7pm.

Maroon

Charles Buggs


Charles Buggs

Positives-  
Played with great energy at the front of the press 
His length and athleticism is perfect for the way we want to play
Still only a freshman 
Has room to grow

Negatives-  
1 rebound
0 offensive rebounds
Only 1 deflection

Elliott Eliason

Positives-
8 rebounds in 28 minutes
7 deflections and 3 blocks
Played very good post defense and ran the court well
Body language has improved

Negatives-
5 for 9 from the free throw line
4 missed screens

Andre Hollins

Positives-
Very good on the ball defensively
5 deflections
Was active in the press
Got to the FT line 7 times

Negatives-  
2 unforced turnovers 

Austin Hollins

Positives-
7 deflections
3 steals
Great leadership
Consummate pro on the court
Didn't have a sub and didn't play tired

Negatives-
Only 4 rebounds in 30 minutes of play

Oto Osenieks

Positives- 
Communicated well
Showed good leadership
Got to the foul line 10 times
Showed a good understanding of what we were doing offensively

Negatives-
6 missed screens
Only 1 deflection
0 offensive rebounds

Malik Smith

Positives-
Efficient offensively
Showed very good poise during a close game
That is his strength

Negatives-  
Only 2 deflections in 28 minutes
0 rebounds
0 steals
Can't settle on just being a jump shooter
Has to impact the game in other ways

Gold

Maverick Ahanmisi

Positives-  
Efficient offensively
Stayed within himself
Took 9 high percentage shots
Great disposition on the court

Negatives-  
0 steals
Only 3 deflections
3 unforced turnovers

Wally Ellenson


Wally Ellenson

Positives-
5 deflections
3 steals
Made big shots down the stretch
Played with a good motor
Tried him at the 4 briefly and he adapted well

Negatives-  
0 offensive rebounds 
That needs to be a huge strength for him 

Joey King

Positives-  
Took 2 charges and attempted to take 5 of them
Communicated very well
4 deflections
Great leader

Negatives-  
Had an identity crisis and thought he was Malik Smith (took seven 3s)
Didn't attempt a 2pt shot
Didn't get to the free throw line
Only had one rebound
9 fouls

DeAndre Mathieu

Positives-  
Took 13 very good shots, none of them were forced
Did a great job of running the team
Was most impressed with him

Negatives-  
Only had 4 deflections
He has the speed and quickness to get more
6 turnovers

Daquein McNeil


Daquien McNeil

Positives-  
Coming off an injury looked better physically
Played with a better motor
Guarded the ball well
Had a good attitude
Still learning
Has a bright future

Negatives-  
Only 2 deflections
0 steals

Kendal Shell

Positives-  
Great attitude and leadership
Brings something positive to the team every single day

Negatives-  
0 deflections

Mo Walker

Positives-  
Was efficient offensively
Did a good job defensive rebounding and blocking out
Ran the floor well
4 deflections

Negatives-  
Zero offensive rebounds
Needs to demand the ball more in the post

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!



Good afternoon, Gopher fans!

Go Gophers! Richard Pitino
Go Gophers!
Pitino said the Gophers must "stay the course and be positive every day."
Go Gophers!
I just finished reading a great article by Joe Posnanski about Pete Carroll and the culture he is building with the Seattle Seahawks. I talk with my staff constantly about how we have to be innovative and forward-thinking with everything that we do. Coach Carroll certainly has gone against the "traditional" way of coaching and it appears to be working. I love how the writer describes Pete Carroll as "relentlessly, even absurdly, positive. He's constant energy. He never stops being cheerful and enthusiastic and encouraging." He has built a culture of positive thinking regardless of what people around him may say.

As we embark on our season it is so important for our players and staff not to succumb to any negativity. People are constantly reminding me that some magazine or media member is picking us to finish at the bottom of the league. It's crucial for me and my staff to remind these guys every day that this will be a process. This will not happen overnight. Embrace the challenge, stay the course and be positive every day. There will always be critics and naysayers. It is so important for us to block all that out. 

Nobody is doing that right now better than Gopher football's own Coach Jerry Kill. Coach Kill loves the game of football, relishes the opportunity to coach and appreciates every day he has with his team. It will take a lot more than a tough disease to keep him from it. He is truly an inspiration and I am proud to be able to work with him. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he has this program going in the right direction!
Before our first practice I showed the team some clips from the HBO series "Hard Knocks." I tried to show them how professional they need to be every day in regards to their "job" as student-athletes. I have been fortunate to inherit a team with a bunch of guys who like to work hard in both areas - on the court and in the classroom.  

This week, we did two 1-hour team practices for the first time since these guys have returned from summer break. For the first time we put in our "white" press. This full court press consists of our power forward guarding the inbounder, and it's the guard's responsibility to force a speed dribble. Speed and athleticism certainly is crucial to playing this style. We have to be in great shape in order to do this. Last year at FIU, we finished eighth in the country in steals per game (9.8). That was a stat we took pride in. We have a long, long way to go but our guys are embracing the challenge. See everybody on Saturday at the football game!

Go Gophers,

Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog: Workouts Begin, Student-Athlete Distractions

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Good afternoon Gopher fans! I hope everyone had a great summer!
Go Gophers! Trevor
Go Gophers!
Check out Coach Pitino's blog periodically this year on GopherSports.com.
Go Gophers!

I am currently en route to Springfield, Mass. for my father's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It has been an amazing ride and I am sure we will reminisce this weekend about so many great memories. My favorite memory has got to be cutting the nets down in Phoenix to go to the Final Four in 2012. Being able to sit one seat from my father and a Hall of Famer for three years is something I will always cherish. His ability to focus under pressure is something I marveled at. He taught me to block out all distractions and focus on what it is important.

It our first team meeting this week, I spoke about a couple of simple rules along with giving them their schedule for the week. I spent roughly 20 minutes about learning to deal with all of the distractions that come with being a Division I student-athlete. On a daily basis, these guys have a lot thrown at them. The most important thing for them is to be able to focus on their academics along with getting stronger in the weight room and better on the court.

The number one distraction in all their lives is their CELL PHONE. Being a student-athlete is a full time job and they need to treat it as such. I read them several studies about how much time the average person spends on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets. All too often, I walk into our locker room and see our players staring at their cell phones. Reading social media or texting on a consistent basis isn't going to help them get their degree or help us win a Big Ten Championship. Our staff will continue to do our best to get the most out these guys each day. There is too much at stake for them. We will be innovative with ways to sharpen their focus in the classroom as well as on the court. I will also do several things to put myself in a bubble and only focus on what's important.

I learned so much from Billy Donovan when it came to this topic. He would rarely turn on a computer, watch TV or be on his phone when school started. Certainly, he would handle his recruiting duties with his phone but other than that it was all business. I thought it was odd at first but quickly realized he was focusing on only what is important in his world, his family, friends and his basketball program. Nothing else.
Go Gophers! Trevor
Go Gophers!
Coach Pitino and current Minnesota Timberwolves player (and former Louisville Cardinal) Gorgui Dieng.
Go Gophers!

Workouts in the first week were up and down. The first workout is always a great indicator of who takes this game seriously. If you come in out of shape it shows that you went home and did nothing for three weeks. It was very obvious who went home and didn't take time off. Some disappointed us but we still have plenty of time to get them in the shape we need. DeAndre Mathieu made his Gopher debut and I came away very impressed by his speed and attitude. He will be a valuable addition for our basketball team.

September is a very busy month for all coaches. We normally recruit during the week and work with our team on the weekend. Home football games are always a great opportunity to bring recruits on campus and show them a great environment on campus. Congrats to Coach Kill and his staff on a great first victory of the season! We will certainly be pulling for him this Saturday vs. New Mexico State.

Thanks to Gorgui Dieng for stopping by our office and tour campus! He agreed with me that the University of Minnesota is a sleeping giant!

Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino