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
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Check out Coach Pitino's blog periodically this year on
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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.
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Coach Pitino and current Minnesota Timberwolves player (and former Louisville Cardinal) Gorgui Dieng.
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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

Good afternoon, Gopher fans!

Today as summer school winds down, we turn our focus on individual player meetings with each of our student-athletes. My plan is to review their academics and give them feedback on their basketball progress and what they need to work on this fall.
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Coach Pitino gives Maverick Ahanmisi straight "As" after the team's summer workouts.
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Our staff met early this morning and gave each guy a letter grade in four categories. They were broken down into strength and conditioning, basketball, academics and attitude. Maverick Ahanmisi was the only guy who got A's all across the board. He got an A- in leadership only because we want him to be more vocal. Joey King also got the perfect score but received a B- in his attitude. He got the grade not because he has a poor attitude, but more because he needs to find a way to channel his emotions and energy a little better.

Many of our guys will go home for a few weeks before we start up school at the beginning of September. We plan to have all of our guys back in time to support our football team on August 29. I know Coach Kill and his staff will have their team ready to go!

The last two days we did two one-hour practices. The first 20 minutes consisted of skill work, and the last 40 minutes were controlled scrimmages. A major weakness of our team right now is our inability to communicate. Certainly this is understandable with a new coaching staff, but it is something we will focus on when they return.  It is impossible to get to where we all want to go without good communication.

Yesterday was a good day if your last name was Hollins. I challenged both Andre and Austin to play like two of the most feared guards in the Big Ten, and they answered the call. The summer allowed our players to improve their fundamentals and implement our fast-paced offense. We still haven't put in our press because we simply didn't have enough time or enough subs to go 5-on-5 for a long time.

The level of conditioning the players need and the foundation for how we want to play was laid this summer, but we all understand we have a long way to go. Every member of our staff is extremely valuable. No person has shown that more than our strength coach, Shaun Brown. He helped change a lot of our players' bodies as well as their diets all in a short amount of time. The intensity and commitment will certainly be turned up even more when they return.
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Andre Hollins will be relied upon heavily to provide veteran leadership this season, says Coach Pitino.
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There has been a lot of talk about facilities and how to improve in these areas. I truly believe we have enough right now to compete at the highest level. Our philosophy is to always talk about what we do have, not what we don't have. We have an extremely passionate fan base, an outstanding university, a marquee basketball conference, a tremendous home court advantage and one of the most desirable cities to live in the country. I have all the faith in the world in our athletic director, Norwood Teague, and his staff to continue to improve our athletic department. We are absolutely headed in the right direction.

In the meantime, our goal as a staff is to make the best of the situation at hand right now. When I first took the job, I didn't like how spread out our players' days were around campus. We practiced, lifted and studied in different buildings. We knew that we had to make a change to make it easier on our players.  With the current changes we are making we feel we have done that. We are excited to say that a dividing wall has been put up in the Bierman Athletic Building. By doing this we have essentially created a practice gym for our guys. Our players can now practice, lift and get academic support under one roof.

We plan to practice often and do individual instruction on the Bierman practice court. We are also putting brand new state-of-the-art strength and conditioning equipment in the upstairs weight room at Bierman. This fall, a typical day for our players will be individuals and weights in the morning, then study hall in our academic center -- all at Bierman. Then they head to class and practice later in the afternoon at Williams Arena.

Many coaches take a week or two in August to take a vacation somewhere before school starts back up. My family has chosen to stay in Minnesota this year. We decided to do this because I don't think there are many better places to be than Minnesota in the summer time! Our staff will get together over the next week and continue to game plan in recruiting for potential visits as well as solidifying our recruiting schedule in September.    

Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog: Recruiting & Much More

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Good afternoon, Gopher fans!  

I am currently writing this blog 30,000 feet in the air, headed back from my last recruiting trip of the July recruiting period. A lot of coaches differ in their approach when it comes to July recruiting. During this period, NCAA rules allow us to evaluate possible recruits. That means we aren't allowed any in-person contact with a recruit, AAU coach, or anyone associated with the recruit. Many coaches have different game plans during this time. Some head coaches will follow around their top targets and make sure they are seen at their games. Other coaches believe being seen during this period isn't important come decision time. I have gone back and forth on this topic. I do believe it keeps you in the mix with recruits, but when it's time for a decision to be made, rarely does me being at their games in July come into the discussion. There are several stages to recruiting and this is simply a necessary step that has to be taken. Every kid is unique and values certain things in the process differently. Our staff will get together tomorrow and put together a game plan for how to approach each recruit.

Over the last two weeks we have done individual instruction instead of team practices. My goal during our team practices was to establish our style of play with the guys - more so offensively than defensively. We have given them a few plays and let them run with it. We have taught them certain terminology and rules that they will hear daily during the season. In the end, the summer is great because we get to work with our players, but it will be completely different than the regular season. We also do our best to build as much chemistry with the incoming guys so that they feel comfortable when school starts. It's only July and everyone understands it is a long season. A great foundation was laid with Coach Smith. We are looking to continue to strengthen that foundation each and every day.

I hope everyone was able to pick up Saturday's Wall Street Journal. The front page mentioned a story, "The Nations Nicest City." It was a two-page feature about how beautiful the Twin Cities are. It certainly was a great depiction of how beautiful our new home truly is. I hope everyone can check it out!

Can't give enough credit to what Mo Walker has done with his body over the summer. He has lost more than 50 pounds and will continue to be in the best shape of his life.

Congrats to Peyton Siva, a player I helped recruit while I was at Louisville, and his new wife, Patience. I took a break from recruiting on Saturday to attend their wedding. Peyton is a great player and an even better person. We hope to find another one like him on the recruiting trail!

Lastly, we will be releasing our non-conference schedule tomorrow so be sure to check it out on  

Go Gophers,
Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino Blog No. 1: Gopher Basketball Update

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Good afternoon Gopher fans! Periodically throughout the offseason I thought it would be a good idea to share some updates and thoughts on the progress of our program. Since I took the job in April it has been a whirlwind. Below are the three main questions every Gopher fan has asked....
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New men's basketball coach Richard Pitino will be writing Gopher fans periodic blog entries on
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1. What has been your biggest surprise since you have taken the job?

Answer: The fan support has been by far the biggest surprise.  What makes the University of Minnesota so special is we are the only Division I school in the entire state. That is extremely unique in a state comprised of 5.3 million people, and that is what makes this job so special. Everywhere I have worked, there have been divided fan bases. The majority of this state grows up dreaming of going to the University of Minnesota.

2. Can you play fast in the Big Ten?

You can play fast in any conference. You can play slow in any conference. The key to playing the style that we would like to play starts and ends with the type of players that we bring in. We will not succeed at playing that style if we don't get the right fit.   Several great coaches throughout the country play the style they believe in to be right. None of these styles are particularly right or wrong. They only become ineffective if you don't have the right personnel to do it. We hope to be one of the best conditioned teams in the country.

3. What is the best piece of advice your father or Billy Donovan has given you?

Answer: It would be impossible to pinpoint one piece of wisdom each guy has given me. Between the two of them they have won 4 national titles, been to 10 Final Fours and won over a thousand games. My father will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall and Coach Donovan will certainly be there in the not so distant future. Both guys do things very differently, but strive to the reach the same common goal. I learned so much from them in my 5 years as an assistant and know they will continue to teach me in the future. 

Personnel Update (After 4 practices) 

Austin Hollins: Has had 4 very solid practices. Has a great demeanor on the court. Very quick release with good size. I love his business-like approach on the court and in the classroom. We are going to rely on him a lot.

Maverick Ahanmisi: Turned out his best practice last week. Showed toughess that I didn't know he had. Has the ability to make shots and play multiple positions for us. He has the potential to be our leader.

Malik Smith: Is playing arguably the best basketball on the team right now. The reason is he has the luxury of playing for me for a year. He is very comfortable in the system and has used it to his advantage. He truly believes every shot he takes will go in. He has also been a great leader.

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Coach Pitino says FIU transfer Malik Smith is playing "arguably the best basketball on the team right now."
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Elliott Eliason: Also had a very good practice last week. Still needs to add some muscle in order to be more physical. His greatest attribute is his running. He doesn't know how good he can be.

Maurice Walker:  It has been well documented that Mo has lost 45 pounds. He deserves all the credit for that. He has worked extremely hard to lose the weight. Although Mo has lost a lot of weight, he is still not in great shape. When he isn't tired he becomes very effective. He is the best passer on the team by far. Needs to be more aggressive when he catches the ball on the low block.

Andre Hollins:  Looked like an all conference player last practice. Didn't expect him to make the USA team because he had been studying abroad for a month. Andre is the epitome of a student athlete. Would love for him to be a more vocal leader. I fully expect him to have a great year.

Oto Osenieks: Has been solid over 4 practices. He has been playing mostly the 4 spot for us. It has given him the opportunity to shoot the three off of pick and pops. Would like for him to be more aggressive and physical on the glass.

Wally Ellenson: Had great success in the spring with the track team. It's very impressive for him to be able to become a high jump All-American with a limited amount of practice. On the court he reminds me of a kid I coached at Louisville named Kyle Kuric. Wally is a very good athlete in the open floor and has shown the ability to offensive rebound. He has to continue to develop his three-point shot.

Go Gophers! King
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Drake transfer Joey King filed for an NCAA waiver to be eligible for this upcoming season.
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Joey King: Love his toughness. He truly believes he is the best player on the court. Confidence like that is extremely valuable. He raises the level of intensity for everyone in practice. His intensity is infectious. He, as well as Malik, both filed for NCAA waivers to be eligible this season.

Kendal Shell: Injured himself before last practice. Highest body fat on the team! To his credit he has lost a lot of weight. Will have a better feel for his game when he gets in shape. Great attitude and great kid.

Daquein McNeil:  Day-Day, as we call him, has been the most pleasant surprise so far. Most freshman are tentative when they first come in but that has not been the case with him. Biggest room for improvement with him is his three-point shot.

Charles Buggs: Has a long way to go, but probably has the most potential to grow of anyone on the team. He will be very effective when we put in the press because of his length and athleticism.

Deandre Mathieu: Still in summer school at home. Really looking forward to working with him in the fall. Has great speed and quickness. Is a pass first point guard.

My staff is taking our newest T-Wolves addition to dinner tonight. Hopefully Gorgui brings that new bonus check for when the bill comes around! 

Thanks again to Kris Humphries and Larry Fitzgerald for stopping by last week.  We will have another practice this afternoon, then its off to July recruiting to hopefully find the next great Gopher!

Go Gophers!

Richard Pitino



Coming Soon: The Official Richard Pitino Blog

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Gophers fans: The official blog of new Minnesota men's basketball head coach Richard Pitino will be coming to later this summer! Check back for informative updates, pictures and much more from the new face of the Golden Gophers.

Stay tuned!