Gophers Coach Richard Pitino Refutes Himself in Colorful Press Conference

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With a nice win over #13 Purdue last night, his second triumph over the Boilermakers this month, Minnesota Golden Gophers coach Richard Pitino punched his ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second time. The 75-73 victory at the United Center, in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, was easily the most exciting and interesting of the tourney thus far.

Afterward, Pitino said he doesn’t care what the media write and say about his team, and claimed they don’t get a whole lot of coverage. He then pointed out how often his team is picked to lose, and then made references to specific bracketologists, therefore completely refuting his own point about how he doesn’t care.

When Pitino gave his opening statement in the post game news conference, and it concluded with this: “I told them in the locker room: You guys might be the least talked about team in the country. And that’s fine with our guys. We relish that.”

Naturally, the very first question Pitino faced from a reporter was “Why are you the least talked about team in America?”

To which he answered: “Well, we’ve lost 12 games. I’m not a big “you’re not respecting us” type of guy. That’s not my deal, but we’ve just been weird.”

“Like we haven’t gone on these huge runs of wins. We kind of like have gone on some losing streaks, then snuck back, had a big win. We’ve got some unassuming guys. Jordan Murphy put up 27 points (in the game Friday night).” He’s the most humble kid on the planet, 7 for 7 from the foul line, never ever beats his chest, never makes it about him.”

“There’s never any type of celebration,” Pitino the Younger continued.

“Amir (Coffey) is a quiet kid. I guess that’s it. I’m not sure.”

Richard Pitino was the 2017 Big Ten Coach of the Year, so he has received some accolade, despite the consistent mediocrity of the program under his watch.

Currently in year six (equaling the number of seasons Tubby Smith was on the job), his numbers compare unfavorably against Smith across the board. He has a decidedly lower winning percentage in every category that matters, as Gopher Illustrated pointed out, and Smith was largely regarded to be mediocre. 

Pitino then received a follow up question from a different reporter.

What do you think it’s going to take to get like a deep run to the Final Four, to get people talking about you guys?

Laughter erupted all across the room as he responded: “We’ve got to go to the Final Four to get people talking about us, huh? Geez.”

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“Again, I don’t know if this group cares. I really don’t think they care. Like our, quote, stars would be Amir and Murph. They don’t care. I really don’t care. I just care that we win. You know, they’re a very, very humble group. They’re not a beat-your-chest type of group.”

“You know, so I think it’s just a matter of just winning games. I think we’ve won four or five, which is important, so we’re playing good basketball at the right time, but our focus is not on attention, it’s on getting rest right now and seeing whoever we play next.”

Minnesota takes on #10 Michigan today, the two time defending Big Ten Tournament champions, who just a record for consecutive wins in the event (9) by curb-stomping Iowa last night. In terms of why the Gophers might be flying so far under the national radar, well the last time they did anything of national relevance was way back in 1997, when they won the Big Ten and made the Final Four.

That season was vacated by the NCAA, meaning that in the eyes of the record books, the Golden Gophers haven’t been to the sweet 16 since way back in 1990.

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Pitino wasn’t done talking about how the media portrays his team, and how his players just aren’t interested in that. In an era that is all about the selfie, and managing the individual brand, the Gophers are a team that just quietly goes about their business; according to Pitino.

“I said to them before our Penn State game: “I’m sick and tired of turning on the TV and nobody is giving us a shot. Everyone picks us to lose all the time.” And I said to Dupree as we were walking out, “Doesn’t that bother you? ” He said, “I don’t really notice it.”

“I don’t think they pay attention to it. So I just think they’ve got a quiet confidence about them, they’ve got a quiet toughness about them. Like I said, they’re not a beat-your-chest type of team. But they’ve got a lot of fight and a lot of grit.”

Pitino said he doesn’t care what the media have to say about his team, but he certainly follows, very closely it seems, what the bracket projection talking heads have to say about the Gophers as they head into the basketball version of the little brown jug game today.

“When you’re a coach this time of year, you look at bracketologists, and there’s Jerry Palm and there’s Joe Lunardi are the two that we kind of look at,” he revealed in the United Center news conference room.

“And when Palm has you a #9 seed you love him, and then when Lunardi has got you as a bye you hate him, and then when it switches you hate Palm and you love Lunardi. So I’m down on Lunardi right now.”

Richard Pitino then made a joke to the primary newspaper beat writer who provides, arguably, the most extensive coverage of the team.

“But I did look at it on the bus over and I got nervous again. So it just shows you as a coach you shouldn’t read any of that stuff, and I think you (the Minneapolis Journal-Star reporter) tweeted it actually, so it’s your fault that I was nervous.”

“Trying to figure it all out is hard. I do know this: They value quad 1 wins, and when you’re in this league, you play a Penn State, who’s won 14 games, that’s a quad 1 win.”

“Obviously Purdue is a terrific team, as well.”

Minnesota is solidly in the tourney field, off the bubble, and everyone knows it at this point.

“We’ll plan a nice little party on Sunday, but we’re not done yet. Hopefully we can get a win tomorrow, too, and keep this thing moving.”

Also, nothing says “I don’t care” about media coverage of my team by then talking in detail about how the media covers your team, and then even taking the time to cite specific media personalities.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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