Pitino vs. Larry Brown — A hall of famer’s son vs. a hall of famer

Jace Frederick

New York — Southern Methodist coach Larry Brown and Gophers head coach Richard Pitino don't really know one another.

That'll change, at least to some point, on Thursday night when Minnesota meets the Mustangs in the NIT final at Madison Square Garden.

But just because Pitino doesn't know Brown, doesn't mean he doesn't recognize the icon that he is. Brown is the only head coach to have won NCAA and NBA championships.

"He's done an unbelievable job with this SMU team," Pitino said.  "He's building a great program.  I mean, he's recruiting great.  The fan interest has gotten better.  And that's just awesome to see and that's why he's one of the true legends in this game. 

As for Brown, he said Tubby Smith has always been one of his guys, so he was quick to credit Smith with the shape he left the Gophers program in. But that doesn't mean he hasn't been impressed with Pitino.

"I have great admiration for him and what he's done at Minnesota." Brown said. "He's done a phenomenal job."

Brown, 73, is a Hall of Famer. Richard Pitino, 31, is not. But Pitino's father Rick is, and Rick was in the stands at the Garden on Tuesday night as his son and the Gophers topped Florida State in overtime. Brown, who said he has unbelievable respect for Rick, said he was "thrilled to death" to see Rick in the building watching Richard coach.

"I can't imagine anything better than that," he said.

And as Brown looked on and saw Rick Pitino in the stands and Richard Pitino coaching from the sidelines, he couldn't help but notice a few similarites.

"It's almost like looking at his dad every time I look over to him; the same mannerisms, they play the same way," Brown said.  "He's tough but fair.  I just love the way he coaches."

And though Brown may have been "thrilled" to see Rick supporting Richard during the game, he might not be as pleased to hear that Rick and Richard went out to dinner after the game to discuss strategy and discuss SMU — who Rick Pitino's Louisville squad beat twice this season.

So while going up against a Hall of Famer like Brown won't be a picnic for Richard Pitino, at least he's got one of his own in his back pocket, sitting just a few rows behind him.