Pitino gives Gophers basketball team poor grades after scrimmages
Gophers men's basketball coach Richard Pitino gave his team four barely passing grades for their preseason performances versus Creighton, a closed scrimmage in Omaha on Oct. 20, and last Sunday's Maroon and Gold intrasquad scrimmage at Williams A...
Gophers men's basketball coach Richard Pitino gave his team four barely passing grades for their preseason performances versus Creighton, a closed scrimmage in Omaha on Oct. 20, and last Sunday's Maroon and Gold intrasquad scrimmage at Williams Arena.
Pitino critiqued those competitions like he would a game and shared his marks on his blog: offense, C-; defense, D-; rebounding, C-; play without the ball, C-.
"I wasn't trying to be negative; I think that's where we stand," Pitino said Wednesday.
The Gophers will receive one more tune-up in an exhibition game against Minnesota Duluth at 7 p.m. Thursday at Williams Arena. Their season opener is 7 p.m. Tuesday against Nebraska Omaha at The Barn.
Pitino felt his team took a "major step forward" in Tuesday's practice, and the process of sharing his views on his gophersports.com forum has been helpful for him, too.
"I like doing the blog," Pitino said. "I think it's almost a little bit therapeutic for me. It gets my thoughts together. I try to be as honest as I possibly can with it."
His candor received national attention. NCAA.com correspondent Andy Katz tweeted: "Tremendous transparency from @CoachPitinoMN. Love this. A trend? Hope so."
Pitino, who wasn't as pointed in his scrimmage comments a year ago, said after five seasons in Minnesota, he has shed some of his filter.
"There is a point in my life, I think every coach at this level, you just don't care anymore, right?" said Pitino, 36. "I think I'm kind of at that point ... just about what exactly I say. I'm just going to be myself."
Pitino acknowledged his grades for the intrasquad scrimmage were a bit tougher because it had few, if any, substitutes, which effected how the team played in up to 24 minutes straight of action. That's especially true as the team played without guard Dupree McBrayer (family reason) and forward Eric Curry (knee injury).
McBrayer returned to the team Sunday after an issue, he said in a tweet, involving his mother.
"Prayers to his mom," Pitino said without sharing specifics. He said McBrayer will play against the Bulldogs on Thursday.
Curry, however, is expected to be out 4-6 weeks after surgery to the same knee in which he tore multiple ligaments in in August 2017.
"I don't think it's ultra-serious; it's just a matter of missing a month," Pitino said. "The timing stinks."
Before Sunday's scrimmage, Pitino said Curry would be out with knee swelling, but an magnetic resonance imaging test later showed the need for surgery. Without Curry, the Gophers will put freshman center Daniel Oturu into a bigger role.
"You are putting younger players into place, which is scary," Pitino said. "But it will also be good for them."
Last year when the Gophers lost Curry for the season, Pitino said he was "concerned, but as long as nothing else happened, we could sustain it. Obviously we could not." Wing Amir Coffey was later lost to injury, and center Reggie Lynch was expelled.
"I do think we have a little bit - a couple more weapons to make up for it," Pitino added Wednesday.
The Gophers head into this season with seven newcomers, and Pitino has been stressing the things that don't show up on the box score, such as boxing out, defensive deflections and running the court hard.
"When you lose Eric, it becomes more glaring that you have some new guys," Pitino said. "Trying to keep it simple and trying to really emphasize (the details) every single day."