MINNEAPOLIS - Just over one year ago many thought University of Minnesota (U of M) men's basketball coach Richard Pitino's job was hanging by a thread. His team had turned in one of the worst seasons in recent memory, the 2016-17 club would be extremely young and unproven, and some of the Gopher faithful thought the young coach should be sent packing.
Funny how a surprise season and an NCAA Tourney berth can change things.
On Wednesday the U of M announced Pitino has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2021-22 season. The deal will become official if approved by the Board of Regents at its May meetings.
“Since I came back to Minnesota as the AD last May, I have been impressed with Coach Pitino and his management of our men's basketball program,” said Athletics Director Mark Coyle in a released statement. “I've seen accountability, commitment and focus from every student-athlete and member of the men's basketball staff, led by Coach Pitino. The team's success on the court this year generated a lot of excitement on campus and around the state. I'm looking forward to much more of that with Coach Pitino leading our program.”
Pitino oversaw the biggest single-season turnaround of any Division I men’s basketball program in 2016-17, improving the Gophers’ win total by 16 and marking a return to the NCAA Tournament. The effort earned him Big Ten Coach of the Year honors from his fellow conference head coaches and media. Under Pitino’s guidance, Minnesota set a new program record with 23 regular season victories, including a 12-1 finish in non-conference play and eight straight Big Ten wins, the team’s longest conference winning streak since 1973.
Four individual Gophers coached by Pitino were recognized this year in All-Big Ten: first team selection Nate Mason, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Reggie Lynch, All-Big Ten third team honoree Jordan Murphy and All-Freshman Team member Amir Coffey.
“I am extremely grateful to be the head coach at such a prestigious university. My family and I love living in the Twin Cities and look forward to continuing to build a strong men's basketball program on and off the court,” said Pitino. “I have loved getting to know and working with Mark Coyle this past year. Mark and President Kaler's commitment to athletics is second to none. The future of Gopher basketball is very bright and I am excited to be a part of it.”
One of the nation’s youngest head coaches and second-youngest at a Power 5 conference school, Pitino has posted a 75-61 overall record in his four seasons at the U of M.