Richard Pitino Press Conference Transcript
April 5, 2013
FULL TRANSCRIPT: April 5, 2013 at Williams Arena
CHRIS WERLE: Thank you very much for coming out this morning. It's a great turnout. We are here to announce the newest members of the University of Minnesota family: Coach Pitino and his wife, Jill. In just a moment, President Kaler will come up and help us introduce the coach. After that, athletic director Norwood Teague will have a few remarks followed by Coach Pitino, and then we'll take questions. With that, I will introduce President Kaler.
PRESIDENT KALER: Good morning. Good morning, and thank you for being here for this very exciting introduction of our new men's basketball coach, Richard Pitino. I'm pleased to be joined today by regents Beeson, Devine and Omari, to welcome the newest members of our Gopher family.
I think a successful search is one in which you get the right person in the right job with the right skills at the right time, and we have done that. The University, our student athletes, and Gopher fans everywhere scored big in the hiring of Coach Pitino. He will bring inspiration, energy, and passion to our program, and he will develop our student athletes on this Williams court and in the classroom. Thank you, Norwood Teague, David Benedict, Mike Ellis and others at Gopher Athletics for your great work.
Last night, I met and interviewed Richard and had dinner with him and Jill. I was sorry that of Ava couldn't make the trip, but I look forward to meeting her soon and introducing her to Goldie.
We have the right guy at the right place, and I'm excited to help welcome Richard and Jill to Minnesota. Thanks for being here.
NORWOOD TEAGUE: Thank you all for coming out to meet our new men's basketball coach. Please welcome Richard Pitino, and his wife Jill to the University of Minnesota. I look forward to seeing what Richard can do and how he can affect our program, our student athletes and our community.
From the beginning, I stated our search goals were three fold in what we wanted. We wanted a relentless recruiter. We wanted someone to develop our student athletes both on and off the court; and thirdly, we wanted someone who would manage and build this program to the highest level, and Coach Pitino fits all of those.
A year ago, Coach Pitino arrived at Florida International University. He had three scholarship players on his roster. During the season he had five scholarship players that he played with. Yet his team won 18 games in its first winning season since 1999 in that university, and he took his team to the conference championship game, an amazing feat.
We expect to see progress under Coach Pitino, but we know it cannot happen overnight. We need to give him the resources to win, and we need to give him the time to build his program here. He is the right fit for this job, and I could not be more happy. Welcome Richard and Jill.
COACH PITINO: Thank you. Thank you very much for all the kind words, President Kaler and Norwood. I'm extremely excited about this opportunity. Minnesota basketball's got one of the best traditions in all of college basketball. It certainly has one of the best home courts as well in Williams Arena. A very passionate fan base, a great university, and a great conference. I truly believe the sky is the limit here.
I'm extremely excited. I met with the team and just talked to them about my vision a little bit and how we're going to go about doing it. They seem excited, so we're really going to get going and moving forward very quickly and try to get this thing off on the right foot.
I appreciate it. This is a great opportunity, and I can't tell you how excited I am. Our style of play is going to be fun for you to watch. I think you guys will really enjoy it thank you. It will be a lot of pressing, certainly. We're going to press on every possession over make. We're going to try to create offense from our defense. It's going to be a style that the kids love to play. It's going to be something where we put a lot of stock into conditioning, being physically in shape as well as mentally in shape. So it's going to be a great brand of basketball. I think you guys will really enjoy it, and I cannot wait to get started. So thank you.
Q. Norwood, could you identify when you thought Richard was your top candidate? Richard, when did you get to a point where you wanted this job or thought of this as a possibility?
NORWOOD TEAGUE: We had a search process that talked to a variety of candidates, and Richard was always on my list. We went through a search that we wanted to go through. We had it planned out and we executed. Timeframes going forward, I have been in a whirlwind the last few days, so I don't know if I could get pinned down on timeframes because I'll probably say something incorrectly, but it went very well. We were very pleased with the search, and it unfolded just like we wanted it to.
COACH PITINO: To kind of piggyback off what he said, certainly when the opportunity to potentially be the coach at Minnesota basketball came up, I was extremely excited and extremely persistent about it. I knew I wanted the job, certainly because I know how great this place is, but more importantly, I think what's special about this place is the people. He's one of the best athletic directors in the country. I've been fortunate enough to work for Tom Jurich and Jeremy Foley, and after talking to people like Billy Donovan, Shaka Smart and Anthony Grant, I knew Norwood Teague was on that list, and the people are what makes the job, and that's why this place is so special.
Q. Can you expand a bit on the opportunities you see and the challenges you see here at the University of Minnesota?
COACH PITINO: Well, I see so many opportunities. The one thing that I love about this place is the passionate fan base. Any time you have an opportunity to play in Williams Arena, which is one of the most historic arenas in the country, and one of the most passionate fan bases in the country. I think the sky's the limit for this place. I really do.
We have to do a great job of recruiting. It always starts with that. You're playing in the best conference in college basketball, and you're playing at one of the best universities or going to school at one of the best universities. So we have a lot to sell. We have plenty to sell through a great experience in college, and to play on a big stage.
Q. When you go out recruiting, how much is your style of play a selling point?
COACH PITINO: I think it's important. I think kids like to play in this style. I think that everybody wants to play and we're going to play a lot of guys. I think ideally every kid, for the most part out there, likes to get up and down the court because it's fun. They like to play with freedom. I think that those things fit these guys, and that's what they like to do.
I've been fortunate enough to learn under two of the best coaches probably to ever coach this game, and I've taken a lot of what they do and it's worked very well over many, many years, and it's put guys in positions to play for many, many years. I think that's what the selling point will be.
Q. Will you be going after all three of the top junior recruits, Tyus Jones, Vaughn, and Travis Reid, have you reached out to them already? What is your game plan on going after them?
COACH PITINO: I can't comment on recruits. I will say this about recruiting: It's very important when you have a State University like Minnesota to constantly develop relationships within the state the right way. We will certainly do our best to recruit all the best players in the country because we've got a lot to be proud of here.
Q. How did you sell yourself to Norwood?
COACH PITINO: Well, I don't think it was as much when I spoke to him, it was not me selling myself and it wasn't him selling himself. It was a very comfortable process. It was more, I think, with Norwood it was we've got to get the right fit and we've got to get a guy that can work together. And he really is one of the best ADs in the country.
So I was more not selling myself, I was just so excited that I had the opportunity to talk to him about it.
Q. How does it feel to replace a legend like Tubby Smith? And Mr. Athletic Director, you're supposed to be the biggest genius in basketball, and it took you forever to get a replacement.
COACH PITINO: Well, the first part, I'll let him answer the genius part. Replacing Tubby Smith, I have a lot of respect for Tubby growing up, knowing him, knowing his family. I think he's a phenomenal coach. He's a great person. I love him dearly, and he's always been so good to me and his family has as well.
Replacing him, I've got so much respect for him. He's had an unbelievable career, and I know he'll do great at Texas Tech. But he's built a very solid foundation here. One in which it's going to be fun to continue to build, but he's left us a very solid foundation.
NORWOOD TEAGUE: In response to the search, we ran the search we wanted to run. I said from the beginning we wanted to hustle but not be in a hurry. These things take time. It's a search. You meet with people, you talk to people, and you try to get the right fit.
I know there were a lot of people mentioned in the media or on message boards and whatnot, and I made a lot of offers I didn't know I made to a lot of candidates I didn't know I met with, but it's a search. It's a search. When you do that, you go out and you think, you execute your plan. These things take time. I thought it was going to take a little bit longer.
But if anything, the only pressure I felt was pressure from people wanting it to hurry along, but that's not smart to do that.
Q. Richard, what's it been like for you to carve out your own name, your own career, in the shadow of a very famous father, and the challenges and obstacles and the motivation you have to do this your way?
COACH PITINO: Well, I'm very proud of my father. People ask me all the time, "Was it tough being Rick Pitino's son?" And it's not. I'm extremely proud to be his son. I'm extremely fortunate to be his son. I embrace it every single day. I would be silly to hide from it. He's a legend in this game. He's changed the game in many, many ways. He's had people who have worked under him who have changed the game. So I'm extremely proud of him and I embrace it very much.
As for the second part of doing it my own way, I think it's fun. I really enjoyed it to coach last year and run my own program. When you work under two guys like Billy Donovan and Rick Pitino, you've got to make some decisions, because those are two Legends who do it a little differently. So I had to figure out what worked for me, and that was really the biggest obstacle.
Q. When you were plotting out your career, did you expect that you would be a major conference coach at your current age?
COACH PITINO: I never really thought about it just because you never know, especially in sports, where things will turn. I really just worry about one day at a time. I was excited about what we were building at FIU. And when I worked at Louisville, and Florida and Duquesne and Northeastern, I just embraced it day by day. I really didn't look toward the future. The fact that I'm sitting here now is a dream come true, and it's something that I'm really going to relish.
Q. Did you have other opportunities to coach besides Minnesota since Florida International, and if so, what were they?
COACH PITINO: No. Florida International was the only thing and then Minnesota came up. I was just so excited about it when he called because I know the type of people they have here. Like I said before, you can't do it alone, and I know that we've all got the same vision.
Q. Norwood, how much did your previously relationship with Billy Donovan play into convincing you that Richard was your guy?
NORWOOD TEAGUE: I've talked to Billy not only in just searches that I've done in the past but just in general. I've been fortunate enough to be involved, I guess, in history with Anthony and Shaka and with them. So it's very important to me to reach out to Billy and to kind of get his pulse on what's going on.
Billy told me a funny story about Richard's preparation. He said that I don't know if I should share this. I think I told him I wouldn't, but I will anyway he said there are two people that Rick Pitino during his time as a head coach has put unmerciful and relentless pressure on when they were assistant coaches. One was Billy and two was Richard. And I think that shows and Billy even said that and we were laughing about it it shows how prepared he is to be a head coach because of that, because it prepared Billy the same way.
Q. When you heard about this job opening, did you think this is a job I want? Did you talk to Billy and say, hey, anything can you do for me? Or were you tempted to make a call yourself to Norwood?
COACH PITINO: When this job opened, I certainly was hoping an opportunity could present itself because I believe this is one of the best jobs in college basketball. It was something where I knew about the tradition; I knew about the fan base; I knew about the quality of the University and how good it was. I knew how much it meant to the State of Minnesota. So the fact that I was being considered was a dream come true, and I am excited. I can't tell you how excited I am to be here.
Q. With a few scholarships available for next season, are you looking to bring in some guys right away or are you setting your sights toward 2014?
COACH PITINO: We're looking to get the right fit. We're not going to just try to fill scholarships. I don't think that's the right way to do things. We'll watch a lot of film over the next couple of days, and I watched them play and we'll see what the needs are. Then we'll go out recruiting and see if something fits those needs. But only if it's the right fit will we do that.
Q. Richard, can you just talk about the challenges of this position? Obviously, a Hall of Fame Coach in Tubby Smith was fired from this job, but he reached the NCAA Tournament with a win. The fan base expects more than three NCAA Tournaments in six years. It's been a while since they've won a Big Ten Championship.
COACH PITINO: My expectations, I think, when you take over a program, it's not to look toward the past as you build toward the future. My expectations are to take it day by day, to build a culture of work, of hard work. I'll take it one day at a time. I think that is the way that you build a program. I don't think you put long term goals into it.
I believe if these guys reach the goals that we want to do on a daily basis of working extremely hard, playing together, acting the right way, doing the right things in the classroom as well as on campus and off the court, then I think those things take care of themselves.
Q. Do you find that being a younger coach is a benefit to you when working with the kids? Norwood, was youth a quality that you were looking for when you were looking for a head coach?
COACH PITINO: I certainly embrace the fact that I'm young. I don't try to hide from it. I've had great relationships with my players at FIU. I have still great relationships with the players at Louisville and Florida. So we go about it a different way. The one thing I always said was I don't try to be Rick Pitino, I don't try to be Billy Donovan. I just try to be myself and I embrace it.
NORWOOD TEAGUE: The youth thing was not something that we set out in the search that was a must. But I'll be honest with you. In talking to Richard, I thought it was definitely an asset, and I thought it was a plus in the end?
Q. How much did you talk with your dad when considering the job, and what did he say to you when you were hired here?
COACH PITINO: It wasn't really a long conversation. I think he said, "Are you crazy?" And that was really the end of it. So we didn't need to talk much over. The fact that I had this opportunity, there wasn't much thinking.
Q. What do you look for in a coaching staff when you're looking for assistants and team personnel? What experience do you have from Florida International that you'll take here as far as the people you look to hire?
COACH PITINO: I think when you build a staff, I want to have guys that are hopefully better than me, hopefully guys that will push me every single day, live and die with this program. Recruiting is a very important piece to this. I like to have guys that are just going to work extremely hard for the benefit of the University of Minnesota, and just live, breathe, eat, sleep basketball. That is kind of the gold.
So I'm not sure what direction I'm going to head with that yet. But with that being said, we're going to bring in a bunch of highly motivated people that can be great assets to this program and make everybody better.
Q. What kind of assurances did Norwood give you in regards to a practice facility? Having toured this arena now, how important is it?
COACH PITINO: Well, when I look around this place, we've got plenty to win and to win at a high level. The practice facility will come, and when it does, it will be great. But still, there is so much here that we can use to our advantage and sell. You're going to get one of the best degrees in the country. You're going to play in the best fan base in the country. You're going to play in one of the best arenas. So we worry about what we have right now, and we'll worry about what we don't have later.
Q. After the whole Isiah Thomas issue at FIU and you came in and cleaned it up, what is perhaps the biggest challenge that you overcame down there that you bring forward into this position?
COACH PITINO: Well, it was a pretty tough situation just because a lot of guys probably in the first week I think we had six. Don't quote me on that but guys transfer or dropout or whatever it may be. We had at the time only three eligible scholarship players, so it was a little scary. Because with the rules and the signing period, you don't have a lot of time to replace those guys. So we had to use previous relationships to acquire some of those guys and get them to come, and we were fortunate to do it.
The one thing that we did is we brought in kids who fit the style of play that I like, and I think that's why they flourished. That's the most important thing. So it taught me a lot. It made me better as a coach. I still have a lot of room to grow, and hopefully I continue to grow.
Q. Just to be clear. What is your preference, Richard, Rich, it doesn't seem like Rick is on the table?
COACH PITINO: Everybody calls me different things. So whatever works for you.
Q. Okay. Then the second question is Florida International is a stepping stone. Do you view this as a final destination? And would the hope be that when you retire, some of us would be pushing 140?
COACH PITINO: That would be, I don't know how old you are, but that would be tremendous. This is absolutely the place I want to be. And me and my wife talked about it last night just how excited we were that we can finally be at a place that we hope to be for the rest of our lives and build something special.
I believe this is one of the top basketball jobs in the country, and I believe the University of Minnesota is one of the best universities in the country. So I'm really looking forward to building a program that competes at a very high level.
Q. You mentioned the style of play that you are looking to implement here. When you look at the personnel on the team now, is that something you think you can implement right away or is it going to take some time to get that up and running?
COACH PITINO: I think it always takes time when you introduce a whole new style of play. None of these guys have played under it, so it will take a little bit of time. With the rules now, it helps a little bit that you can work over the summer and work with these guys a little bit more. But it's certainly going to take time. Any time you implement a whole new system, it will take some time.
Q. It's very early in the process, however, are you in the position to name any of your staff?
COACH PITINO: No, no. I'm looking forward to building a great staff. It is extremely important to me that we get the right guys in here. So I'm going to hopefully meet with some guys this weekend and continue to just touch base with people.
Q. Norwood, can you clear up what went on in your talks with Saunders?
NORWOOD TEAGUE: I'm not going to talk about any specific candidates. We talked to a handful of people. Again, the search really went well, and it progressed like we had planned. I didn't have a timeframe from the beginning. I thought it could easily have gone into the final four. A lot of the schools do that. We wanted to find the right fit, and I will tell you something, we did. We got really lucky with this guy, and I can't tell you how impressed I am with him, his vision, and what he wants to do here. He is the perfect fit for the University of Minnesota?
Q. There is a lot of talk about recruiting, how much do you know about the special 2014 class? Is there any pressure to land someone from that group for your early success?
COACH PITINO: Well, I can't comment on recruiting or on certain recruits. But what I can say is in order to build a championship program, it starts with the players. The coaches probably get a little too much credit at times. Recruiting is the number one most important thing. Myself and the staff, I've got to get the right staff in place. We have a lot to sell, which is exciting. So I'm eager to start selling what we have to offer here.
NORWOOD TEAGUE: When he says he can't comment, that's an NCAA violation. It's not that he doesn't want to.
Q. Coach, you mentioned that a practice facility is just going to come. We've been hearing that for six years. It hasn't happened. What can you do to get some donors cutting some checks on this practice facility?
COACH PITINO: Well, here's what I can tell you about it, and it's certainly something we're excited about pursuing. But Norwood Teague just got here nine months ago. You're looking at one of the top ADs in the country. So I've got a full belief and confidence in him that he's going to get that done. There is zero doubt in my mind.
Time being now, we've got plenty to offer, and we'll worry about that later, and that will be a great seats as well. But we've got enough here now just sitting in Williams Arena to sell.
Q. Coach, a recruit like Alvin Ellis requests a release from his national letter of intent, are you looking to go after guys like that that were in a previous recruiting class or are you looking to set up your own?
COACH PITINO: I'm just looking for the right fit. I don't think it necessarily matters what it may be. We'll go recruiting this month. You're allowed a certain number of days where you can go out and evaluate. If there is something there that fits what we want to do and fits our needs, we'll certainly try very hard to get him here. That's what we're looking for. The right fit, the right type of person, as well as player.
Q. Coach, I don't want you to commit any NCAA violations, but getting back to recruiting, as one of the youngest coaches in the country, what are some of the challenges you face getting into the homes of these families as far as convincing them why you're the coach to lead them through their college careers?
COACH PITINO: I think every job is challenging. I've worked at some great places, and I'm fortunate to be here now. There is no easy job. It's a challenge for everybody. With that being said, I'm very confident that I can walk into these homes and sell a lot of great things. You talk about one of the best universities in the country, one of the best fan bases in the country, playing in the best conference in the country. So I've got a lot of things I can sell. I'm very confident with that and excited about doing that.
Q. Norwood, being that this was your first big hire as athletic director, how important was it for you, your legacy going forward to make sure that you got the right guy?
NORWOOD TEAGUE: It's important not just for me, but for our fans and our University and our student body, most of all, our student athletes. I didn't always look at it as oh, this is a huge deal for me. It's a huge deal for the University, and that's where my concern lied more than myself.
Q. Talk about the Big Ten, the midwest. It seems that your roots are most east coast or the Florida region. What do you know about this area, and are you going to hire someone on your staff that's more familiar with Minnesota?
COACH PITINO: I can tell you about the Big Ten. It's got to be the best basketball conference in the country. I think you saw that this year. What I love about it is you've got so many historic traditions, so many great Universities and so many great fan bases. So it certainly is important when getting a staff, whoever it may be, that they understand that and they put us in a position to get the best players possible and the best fit for what we're trying to do.
Q. How much time have you had to spend with the players already?
COACH PITINO: I met with them earlier today and we probably spent 15 minutes together. An I'm really looking forward to next week meeting with these guys individually, talking about my vision for them individually as well as a team and getting to spend time with them. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do that too much just yet, but I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. There were a lot of rumors swirling around before you made the hire. One of the rumors was you wanted to be heavily involved in naming assistant coaches. How involved will you be and will there be restrictions put on what Richard can and can't do?
NORWOOD TEAGUE: One thing that I was thrilled about in talking to Richard over the past week or so was his unbelievable network, his thoughts on who those assistants would be. I know a lot of them. It really excites me on that area and what he'll do there.
He will go with it. He'll run with it. We hired a guy who, as he says to me, it's so important to get a great staff. It's so important to get a great staff. So that's thrilling to me.
Q. Without going into specifics, how familiar are you with the quality of basketball in the state of Minnesota at the high is school level? Have you ever recruited here in the past?
COACH PITINO: I am very familiar with the quality of high school basketball, AAU basketball in this state. I know that these guys are going to be well coached and prepared at the college level. That is always very important. I know how passionate these people are about basketball.
When you have that type of passion, you normally have great coaches. And that is extremely important to get guys that are ready to play at the college level. So I'm really, really excited to get out in the community, meet these coaches and get to know them even better.
Q. How do you feel about competing against your father for players in recruiting, and secondly, have you talked to Tubby Smith about the job?
COACH PITINO: I have not talked to Tubby, but I'm extremely excited to go ahead to head with my dad. It's game on, the way I look at it. Hopefully, he fights fair, but I'm excited. I really am. In all seriousness, he's a legend, and he's changed my life in so many ways. I'm so fortunate for him to be my father. He's one of the best. If I'm not going against him, I sure hope he's helping us as much as possible as well.
Q. What do you think of the current roster? Does the fact that they have some good veteran guards already here, does that play to your strengths?
COACH PITINO: Yeah, it certainly helps. It's exciting. I know that we've got some very good pieces. But I have not been told by one person that these guys aren't great kids. So I think when you're building a program and putting your stamp on it, you've got to have good people who are motivated and these guys are that. To comment on certain needs, I'm not quite there yet, because it's been a little bit of a whirlwind. I will certainly get to watching some film and understanding even more. But I loved watching them play throughout the course of the year. I know they have some great players and hopefully we can go out and get some more great players.
Q. Norwood, in the course of this search, we have seen other coaches and other schools either re up for higher prices or others leave with existing contracts to go to other schools. So as you look at Richard and want to have him here committed as long as possible what kind of slippery slope are we on with this situation with college coaches who are so called committed to a school, someone else comes in, sweeps them away, and next thing you know they're wearing someone else's colors?
NORWOOD TEAGUE: It's a reality, but one thing that I can control, and that is the relationship that Richard and I have. We're getting here together at the same time, essentially. I'm nine months apart. But we're going to be attached at the hip. I will work diligently at our relationship. I know it will be great. I think that's the part I can control.
That does at times, behind the scenes keep coaches in certain jobs, and I want him here a long time and to be ultra successful, and I'll work to be a servant leader for him.
Q. When you got to FIU, how would you describe the way the fan base embraced you? With skepticism because you hadn't coached before or were they excited about your background? How do you think they went along for that ride last season?
COACH PITINO: Well, the two fans who were my wife and Ava, that was really the fan base. We didn't have a very big fan base. What happened was probably our first game we might have played in front of a hundred people. Then it was great. The ride was great. They continued to get better and better and better where we were starting to pack the place. They were a lot of fun.
FIU is a different place than here because it's a new University. They've never really been great at basketball. They've only really been in existence, I think, for 30 years, the University. So I think they're really building. So it's a much different situation, but they were great.
I was really fortunate to work there for President Rosenberg and Pete Garcia. They were so great to me and supported me throughout the way as well as the fans.
Q. You talk a lot about your style already. Do you see that as a new challenge trying to implement that in the Big Ten? We've heard Tubby talk about playing this up tempo, pressing style, and we see it a lot in non conference, and as you hit the Big Ten and those defenses that kind of disappear a little bit.
COACH PITINO: Yeah, I look at it the other way. I look at it as how excited I am to go against those. The one thing I think the style does is it tries to take you out of your comfort zone. I think it's a bit of a misconception that the Big Ten is slow down basketball. I watched Indiana play. That was extremely fast paced as well as other programs.
I'm more excited about trying to impose our will into other programs. That's when I worry about the style of play. We try to be as aggressive as possible.
Q. You talk about game on with your dad. Would you like to see a rivalry or a home at home set up with Louisville in the near future?
COACH PITINO: I would. I wouldn't want to play him this year, certainly. But we'll wait until he loses a couple of those players. But I'd love to, if he'd be willing to do it. We were going to do it at FIU, and hopefully we can do something here. It would be great to go against him head to head, and I would love to do it.
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