Richard Pitino: ‘It’s been a tough week for our family’

Published 5:54 pm Friday, September 29, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — During Richard Pitino’s most difficult days as coach at Minnesota, when the Gophers were losing at a historic rate two years ago, his father Rick would come in from Louisville to give the team a pep talk and sit behind his son at a game in a show of support.

Now it’s Rick that needs the help.

Richard Pitino said on Friday that “it’s been a tough week for our family.” Rick Pitino was placed on administrative leave as the result of a federal bribery investigation that alleges money was funneled from Adidas, which sponsors Louisville, to the family of a prized recruit to get him to choose the Cardinals.

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“It’s family. He’s my dad. I love him. I care for him. I want what’s best for him,” Richard Pitino said before the Golden Gophers held practice. “I’m here for him. I just want him to be happy.”

Placing him on leave was the first step toward firing Rick Pitino, one of the biggest names in college basketball. Several assistant coaches from various schools were arrested and FBI investigators have warned that more coaches and programs could be in trouble. Richard Pitino has followed in his father’s footsteps, but said he saw nothing that would corroborate the allegations facing the program while he was an assistant at Louisville from 2007-09.

“We’ve just got to band together and be there for each other,” Richard Pitino said. “You always know when tough times hit whose got your back. Our family’s very strong.”

Richard Pitino was expecting to use his news conference on Friday to talk about a highly anticipated Gophers season. The team returns most of its key players from one that was one of the biggest surprises in the country last year that went 24-10, finished fourth in the Big Ten and made a run to the NCAA Tournament a year after winning just eight games.

But the announcement of the investigation has rocked the college basketball landscape. Louisville was one of seven universities described in three complaints that resulted in the arrests this week of four assistant coaches, an Adidas executive and several others.

The investigation gives a window into the seedy underworld of recruiting, where shoe companies allegedly use their power and financial influence to help steer high schoolers to high-profile programs. Richard Pitino said he hopes the investigation can help address some of the problems that have lingered for decades.

“I think it’s bad and good,” Richard Pitino said of the investigation. “It’s not good for anybody right now. I only know what I read, so you never know what the truth is with all that stuff. It’s never good when you hear any of those things about your game. Hopefully, it’s something that in the long term we might benefit from it.”

Now Richard Pitino is trying to turn his attention to developing his team while dealing with injuries to key players Reggie Lynch and Dupree McBrayer, who are not participating in contact drills yet. The Gophers have already lost Eric Curry for the season to a knee injury, so their depth is being tested.

The injuries have given the fall work “a weird vibe,” Pitino said.

“There’s no a great flow,” he said. “Just from a competitive standpoint.”