Good afternoon Gopher fans,
I'm not going to lie. This year was really tough! It took years to build a Big Ten contender and we felt we had one. People come up to me often and ask how I feel our team will be this year. I always give a standard response along the lines of, "We will see in time. Just have to stay healthy!"
Staying healthy was obviously something we weren't able to do. One of the biggest daily challenges was practice. Dupree didn't practice the last two months. Rest will do him a lot of good. We weren't able to tinker the way I would have liked to with so much uncertainty on the roster every day. I could list 100 excuses of why we finished the way we did and they would all be justified.
With that being said we aren't exempt from blame, myself especially. Regardless of the injuries, there were several things that I need to do a better job at. I am not sure how much better we could have been but I do know we could have been better. Below I will dive deeper into what weaknesses we need to improve on as well as our strengths that we can build off. Most of my evaluation will be from conference play after the Illinois game since it felt like a totally different team and a new season.
Clearly I, along with our staff, need to do a better job of recruiting depth all over our roster. I do believe next year's roster will be our deepest yet. We have to add a quality player in the spring to go along with our great recruiting class. Lastly, our guys are doing great in the classroom. We had the best fall semester on record in our basketball program. We have to finish strong academically this spring. Nate, BK, and Gas will all go on to graduate. We gave them off this week, as well as next week, then it's time to get back to work.
Ball movement - We really struggled to move the ball and trust each other on the court. When a play broke down we just stood. I have to do a better job of generating ball movement and player movement. Last year we had 260 assists in conference. This year we were down to 230. I often watched our NIT championship team's offense during the season and we moved the ball so much better. We have to get back to that.
Defensive rebounding - Last year in conference we had 512, this year 445. Have to do a better job of blocking out first. Losing the length and size of Eric, Reggie and Amir made it even more important to be fundamentally sound blocking out. Can't win in this conference if you don't rebound the ball.
Half court defense - Opponents shot 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from the 3-point line. Last year, we held teams to 41 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. Length is a huge key on defense and we obviously lost that early in conference play. Nevertheless, we have to be more disruptive.
Getting to the foul line - Last year we shot a total of 403 free throws in conference. This year we shot 353. A main part of our offense is putting pressure on the defense. Scoring was obviously a huge challenge after all the injuries.
Scouting - We allowed too many teams to do what they do. They weren't uncomfortable. I still remember the game at Michigan. We did a great job of taking them out of what they do but kept giving their talented offensive players their right hand. Guarding teams underneath out of bounds plays was also as poor as it has been since I have been here. That's on me and I will fix it.
Attitude - Everyone knows we were dealt a very tough hand. Our guys kept fighting. They never complained in practice and did their very best to fight through injuries. Some logged heavy minutes. It was very emotional in the locker room at Madison Square Garden. Going to be tough to say goodbye to BK, Gas and Nate. They will be missed!
Adjusting and adapting to different roles - I give a lot of credit to all our guys on this. All of them were thrust into totally different roles and did a good job.
Toughness - Mentally and physically. We were obviously very banged up, had no depth, and guys played heavy minutes with no subs. They kept fighting through it. We had no choice.
Chemistry - I really liked the way the guys interacted with each other on and off the court. They celebrated each other's success.
Isaiah Washington - Showed improvement at the end of the season. I'm not going to lie. I had my concerns if he would ever get it. The biggest reason why he improved was his body language. He stopped approaching practice as a punishment but more as an opportunity to get better. He's only a freshman so it's going to take time. Great opportunities lie ahead for him in the future. He can't get complacent. Must ignore the poison of social media and live in the real world.
Dupree McBrayer - Obviously has to get healthy. We will shut him down for the next two months and see how he responds. One of the toughest kids I have ever coached. Needs to work on taking better shots next season. I expect him to have a terrific senior year. Really appreciate his sacrifice this season.
Amir Coffey - Another guy who just needs to get healthy. He tried to fight through it but re-injured that shoulder in the Northwestern game. Surgery will do him good and he will come back stronger. We missed him on offense and defense. One of the most talented, durable, versatile players in the conference.
Jordan Murphy - Statistically had a ridiculous season. Remarkably tied Tim Duncan's consecutive double-double record to start the season. I am so proud of the way he has grown on and off the court. Going to work extremely hard on his quickness this offseason. Unbelievable hands and timing. Unguardable on the block. Has to do a better job of catching it closer to the basket. We will work diligently on passing out of double teams.
Eric Curry - Another guy who has to get healthy. He played 23 crucial minutes per game for an NCAA tournament team as a freshman. His future is very bright. He looks great. We will continue to move him along slowly.
Michael Hurt - Got valuable minutes when Amir went down. Loved the aggressiveness he showed at Wisconsin. Has to work on his quickness as well as his three point shooting. Terrific cutter and passer. Works his butt off and brings it every day. This season was very good for his growth.
Davonte Fitzgerald - Has to take better shots. He was dealing with a little minor knee stuff towards the end of the season and did a great job of fighting through it. Has to work on being more physical defensively. I feel for him because he has been through a lot physically. Need him to get healthy.
Jamir Harris - Has to understand that there is more to life then shooting threes. He is a terrific shooter from the perimeter but only shot 29 percent in league. Clearly that means he's not taking great shots. One of the hardest workers on the team.
Matz Stockman - Matz clearly has the size to compete at this level. Terrific passer out of the post. Playing time opportunities are there! Huge spring for Matz.
Hunt Conroy - Has to learn the plays. I blame his dad! Awesome kid and a terrific addition to our program.
Brady Rudrud - Better player than he gives himself credit for. Has to be ready when called on. Another phenomenal teammate.
Jarvis Omersa- Having a terrific senior season. Best athlete I will have coached since being here. Love the way he connects with everyone on and off the court. Underrated passer.
Gabe Kalscheur- Putting up ridiculous numbers and doing it the right way. Not forcing shots. Playing very efficiently. Underrated defender. Winner. Finalist for Mr. Basketball in the state of Minnesota.
Daniel Oturu - His team is having great success and Daniel is a major part of that. The sky is the limit for how good he can become. Should be an elite rebounder and defender. Also a finalist for Mr. Basketball.
We still have a scholarship to give so we are actively recruiting this spring to continue to make our roster stronger. I really like the potential of this team moving forward. If you do see me in public and ask what i think just be prepared for me to say "We will see in time. Just have to stay healthy!" Also, please resist the temptation of saying "tough season coach." I'm aware :)
For all who haven't seen our new digs, they are by far the best in the country. Athletes Village will change our athletic department drastically. Thanks to all who donated!
State of College Basketball
We live in crazy times right now. Nobody knows what's to come of all these recent reports. All of it is speculation. As the son of someone who was directly affected by all this stuff I would ask two things of you. 1) Please don't take pleasure in other people's tough times and 2) Try not to rush to judgement. Too often as a society we would rather be first instead of being right. What is said and written isn't always true. The truth will come out in time. All I know is the greatest few weekends in sports are upon us. March Madness is here. Enjoy it. I hate that we aren't playing in it. It kills me but I still watch every minute of it. We hope to be back there next season!
Summer Update: Amir Coffey
6/14/2018 - M. Basketball
The rising junior talks about his rehab from last season's shoulder injury and excitement for the upcoming year.,
Watch: First Practice of 2018-19
6/14/2018 - M. Basketball
Go behind the scenes with the first summer practice of the 2018-19 season with the Gopher Men's Basketball team and head coach Richard Pitino.
New Gophers Move In
6/11/2018 - M. Basketball
The freshmen and transfer Gophers are now Dinkytown residents after arriving on campus over the weekend.