After eight seasons at the helm of the Gophers men’s basketball program, head coach Richard Pitino will no longer coach the program, the University’s athletics department announced Monday.
“I recently met with Richard and told him that we were moving in a different direction,” University athletics director Mark Coyle said in a statement. “Richard is a tremendous person and coach, and I want to thank him, Jill and their family for their commitment to Minnesota. We wish them well in their next endeavor.”
Coyle continued to say that he believed new leadership was needed within the program and that they are immediately starting a nationwide search for the next head coach.
Pitino has seen plenty of ups and downs during his tenure, but his biggest struggles in Minnesota have been his inability to recruit within the state as well as winning in conference play. This season, Pitino got the Gophers to an 11-4 start, before losing 10 of their remaining 12 regular season games. The team finished with a 6-14 conference record.
On top of the losing season, the Gophers failed to secure a win in their 10 road games.
Over his eight years, Pitino finished with a winning record in the Big Ten just once in the 2016-17 season, where the team finished 11-7 in conference play. His worst season came in 2015, after a 8-23 overall record including a 2-16 conference record.
This season marked his fourth losing season and second straight while with Minnesota. Signs had been pointing to his departure since it took over 20 minutes for him to jump on a Zoom call with reporters following the team’s loss to Nebraska on Feb. 27.
Pitino had a long talk with the team, but told reporters he wouldn’t get into what was discussed.
“I just told them, ‘Enjoy the process. Enjoy being in college,'” Pitino said. “It’s a weird college experience, obviously, but embrace it, love it. Love the time you have with your teammates; love playing basketball.”
Despite the losing track record, Pitino has also seen a lot of success in Minnesota. Over his time with the Gophers, Pitino saw Minnesota rank as high as No. 12 in the AP Poll in the 2017-18 season. He’s led the team to two NCAA tournament appearances since he replaced Tubby Smith after the 2012-13 season.
Pitino won Big Ten Coach of the Year when he led the Gophers to the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed in 2017. Unable to win a game in the 2017 tournament, Pitino and the Gophers won their first game in the 2019 tournament over Louisville in their second appearance under Pitino.
The athletics department will now begin a coaching search to determine Pitino’s successor as the men’s basketball coach, which Coyle called “an extremely attractive job.”