Feb. 28, 2021: It was reported Sunday that Richard Pitino’s time as the head coach of the Gophers’ basketball team may officially be over.
BY: Tony Liebert
A source told me yesterday that Gophers coach Richard Pitino and athletic director Mark Coyle met on Friday, and that Pitino looked dismayed leaving the meeting. #Gophers
— Henry Lake (@lakeshow73) February 28, 2021
I have now been told via a different source that Coach Pitino will NOT return to Dinkytown and will coach out the rest of this season. #Gophers
— Henry Lake (@lakeshow73) February 28, 2021
WCCO’s Henry Lake reported Sunday that Richard Pitino and Mark Coyle had a discussion Friday that may have all been the beginning of the end of his time as the head coach of the Gophers. Assuming that this report is true, let’s look at a speculative list of the most interesting candidates to replace Richard Pitino.
- Tim Miles
- Jim Peterson
- J.B. Bickerstaff
- Dave Thorson
- Sam Mitchell
- Thad Matta
- Ben Johnson
10. Ryan Saunders
It seems to be a recent trend in college basketball for programs to hire a famous alumnus. Memphis with Penny Hardaway, Michigan with Juwan Howard, and Georgetown with Patrick Ewing to name a few. Some have been more successful than others, but why wouldn’t the Gophers take a shot in the dark. It makes sense any way you put it, and I would imagine a 34-year-old would be much more comfortable coaching college kids instead of grown men.
9. Dennis Gates
I’ll admit, I had no clue who the head coach of Cleveland State was two weeks ago. Dennis Gates, only 41-years-old is one of the best up-and-coming coaches in the country. At Cleveland State, he has earned back-to-back Horizon League coach of the year honors in each of his first two seasons at the helm. His record may only be 28-28, but looking at the program he took over that is very impressive. I think Gates has a terrific future in coaching, but I don’t know if the jump to the Big Ten after only two seasons of coaching in the Horizon League will be something that will happen.
8. Porter Moser
College basketball fans may recognize Moser’s name from his magical run with Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean to the 2017-18 Final Four. Well, Moser’s Ramblers are back this season reaching as high as No. 21 in the country and a current 21-4 record. He is only 52 years old with stops at Arkansas Little-Rock and Illinois State as a head coach. If he can do it in the Missouri Valley why can’t he do it in the Big Ten?
7. Anthony Grant
Anthony Grant is the current head coach of the Dayton Flyers, and he is only one season removed from being named the National Coach of the Year. He began his head coaching year at VCU earning three straight 20 win seasons, then jumped to Alabama making only one tournament in five seasons. He has now been at Dayton for four seasons, most notably finishing 29-2 in 2019-20 before the season abruptly ended. At 54 years old, and well respected across the country he could be a great option for Minnesota.
6. Darian DeVries
DeVries will be one of the most popular names among D1 coaching searches. In only his third season at Drake, he has the Bulldogs 24-3. He has earned 20+ wins in all three of his seasons as head coach. After being an assistant at Creighton for 16 years, he has taken advantage of his opportunity at Drake. Another midwest guy that is only 45 years old could be a terrific option.
5. John Beilein
Beilein has been a very popular name within Big Ten basketball for years, having made the Michigan basketball program a consistent powerhouse. He has most recently been let go by the Cleveland Cavaliers promoting a career in the booth for Big Ten Network. He is 68 years old, but I would have to imagine that he would like to get back out there, and why not jump into a familiar conference. There are no connections to Minnesota, but this would certainly be great for the Gophers program.
4. Craig Smith
Craig Smith is currently the head coach of Utah State. Now in his third year as head coach of the Aggies, Smith has a 70-22 record competing in the Mountain West Conference. Before residing in Logan, Utah Smith was a head coach at South Dakota and an assistant at Nebraska and Colorado State. He was born in Stephen, Minnesota and he is only 48 years old. Being that he is due for a jump to the high-major program level why not come home?
3. Eric Musselman
Musselman is a popular name in college basketball, as he has completely turned around Arkansas’ program in only his second season. He has the Razorback ranked No. 20 in the country and only rising. He has a connection with Minnesota, as his father Bill was head coach of the Gophers from 1971-75 as well as the first coach in Timberwolves history. This move makes a lot of sense, but unfortunately I just really don’t see it happening, but you can always hope.
2. Niko Medved
Niko Medved was born in Minneapolis, MN and he is currently the head coach of Colorado State. He brought Breck high school graduate David Roddy to the school who is now averaging 16.1 PPG and 9.3 RPG in only his second year. Medved has the Rams 15-4 and likely headed for the NCAA tournament. He is only 47 years old and supports a 47-36 record in only three seasons at CSU. He also has eight years of head coaching experience previously at Furman and Drake. Medved was even an assistant at Minnesota for the 2006-07 season.
1. Brian Dutcher
There is one option that stands out over the rest. Brian Dutcher, San Diego State’s current head coach attended the University of Minnesota himself. His name may sound familiar because his father Jim was the head coach of the Gophers for 10 seasons from 1975-1986. Brian has an 87-30 record in only four seasons as the head coach of the Aztecs. He is currently 61 years old and has great connections to the Gophers.
After receiving a contract extension at San Diego St with a nearly $7MM buyout, he insisted on only a $1MM buyout if he goes to Gophers. “It’s my school where I went & was able to be part of basketball program with my dad,” said Dutcher.