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Richard Pitino's young son passes his test on the Gophers' road trip

02/05/2019, 4:45pm CST
By Daniel House

Richard Pitino’s young son, Jack, is starting to become a huge fan of basketball. Well, if you’re in the Pitino family, you’re almost guaranteed to love the game, right?

When the Gophers’ head coach decided to take his son on the team’s road trip to Purdue, he laid out the expectations beforehand. The main rule: when dad was coaching, he couldn’t be bothered. 

“I tried to lecture him over and over again: ‘You can’t go on the court. You can’t bother daddy when he’s coaching,’ Pitino said. “He only bothered me twice…out of a timeout, he said, ‘daddy,’...I thought [it was a] bathroom break for sure. And he said, ‘are you winning?’ and I said, ‘well yeah, we are winning, good question.’” 

During the second quick interruption, Pitino and Jack were caught on camera. Everyone can see the head coach’s son say, “I have to go to the bathroom.” 

Hey!!! When you gotta go, you gotta go!!!! Even if your Dad is in the middle of a battle with @BoilerBall #BoilerUp

— Dave Marren (@DaveMarren) February 4, 2019

“I see his head and I’m looking, and I’m like what’s he about to do? Does he want a snack or something?” Pitino said. 

Coach Pitino quickly asked for help before returning to his coaching duties. Suddenly, it was time for a team manager to step in and find a solution to Jack’s dilemma. 

“It was just me and him, so I turned to one of the managers and said, ‘please, handle this. I’m busy,” Pitino laughed. 

The Gophers may have lost the game 73-63 at Purdue, but young Jack passed the test of attending a road game with his father. In fact, while sitting in one of the loudest and most hostile arenas in the country, he was soothed by the sounds. 

“Overall, though, he was the MVP of the game because he was actually very well behaved and he fell asleep for the last three minutes of the game in one of the toughest places to play in the country,” Pitino said. “It’s a lesson to my wife, that always complains I’m too loud like when I’m opening a drawer at night while the kids are sleeping. They can sleep through anything.”

Rebounding has to be consistent 

On the floor, Minnesota led by 13 points in the second half of Sunday’s 73-63 loss at Purdue. A sudden lapse on the glass allowed Purdue to win the rebounding margin. During a big 24-4 run by the Boilermakers, the Gophers were trailing on the glass, 15-7. The rebounding lapses stand out in head coach Richard Pitino’s mind. 

“[We] did a lot of good things versus Purdue. We stopped rebounding the ball at the wrong times and if you’re going to win in this league, you have to defend and rebound,” Pitino said. “And we were playing good defense and we just didn’t rebound the ball in crucial situations – had a couple bad minutes there. 

Pitino also recalled two critical front-end misses at the free throw line in Sunday’s game. Those small mistakes add up in competitive Big Ten basketball games, especially against a team with one of the top offensive players in the country. 

“We missed two front-end one-of-ones that affected it. They’re going to go on some runs. They shoot the basketball very, very well. Edwards is averaging 25 points per game in the Big Ten, that’s unheard of,” Pitino said. “Again, we were defending, we stopped rebounding. If you don’t defend and rebound, you can’t get out on the break. When we stop doing those little things, teams are going to go on runs.”

Border Battle on the Horizon 

With seven potential “quadrant one” wins on the horizon for the Gophers, there will be plenty of opportunities for additional quality wins. The journey will continue as Minnesota hosts No. 19 Wisconsin at Williams Arena on Wednesday night. 

In early January, Minnesota knocked off the Badgers in Madison for the first time since 2009. During the 59-52 win, the Gophers’ strong defense and a 21-point outburst by Amir Coffey carried them to victory. Wisconsin went 5-for-22 from the three-point line and shot 41 percent. 

Lately, Wisconsin’s shooting and defense has carried them to a five-game winning streak in Big Ten play. In order to stop the Badgers’ attack, the Gophers know they’ll have to keep tabs on big-man Ethan Happ. The senior forward leads the Badgers in points (18.5 PPG), rebounds (10.3) and assists per game (5.1). Many of Wisconsin’s offensive sets run through the 6-foot-10 big-man because of his unique skill set. Happ currently ranks third in the Big Ten in assists per game, finishing ahead of several top guards in the conference. 

“[Happ] doesn’t have any weaknesses, besides free throw shooting from time-to-time. [He’s a] phenomenal passer. If you trap, he’s gonna see if coming. If you dig too much and over help, he’s going to kick it back out for a three,” Pitino said. “He’s about as unstoppable as it gets…. I’ve never seen one player do more for one team, I’ve never seen it. When he’s in the game, he just occupies so much. He makes you make difficult decisions and they spread you out with shooters.”

Senior guard Amir Coffey also recognizes Happ’s impact and the challenges they’ll need to overcome in the second meeting. Many of looks the Badgers will deploy against Minnesota revolve around their best player. 

“They like to play through Ethan Happ a lot, give him the ball, feed him a lot and put shooters around him, so you have to be ready with rotations, because, obviously, you have to dig with Happ and get back to the shooters,” Amir Coffey said. 

Wednesday night presents another big opportunity for a Gophers team trying to put together a complete and cohesive performance this season. For example, Dupree McBrayer went 0-for-5 from the floor in Sunday’s game. In other instances, the Gophers have been in foul trouble or one key contributor hasn’t played their best. When Minnesota finally manages to put together a complete game, they could pose some challenges for opponents. Despite inconsistent performances, the Gophers have competed against Michigan and Purdue, the top two teams in the Big Ten. Players, including sophomore Eric Curry, recognize the potential when Minnesota puts it all together. Head coach Richard Pitino has even been telling them that. 

“Coach Pitino just brought up [the team’s potential], actually, yesterday in film…he was like, ‘Dupree didn’t really have a good shooting night, I didn’t play, Murph didn’t really get going and just imagine if we all put that together, how special we can be,’” Eric Curry said. “So we just have to be more locked in to the details and scouting reports and we’ll be fine.”

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