Minnesota’s Richard Pitino took to the podium on Thursday at Big Ten Basketball Media Day and talked about his 2016-17 basketball squad.
Pitino first addressed his relationship with the Minnesota Timberwolves and how he picked up some defensive drills from their head coach Tom Thibodeau after visiting a practice.
“It’s always nice having that partnership with them and having somebody to bounce those ideas off of is something I don’t take for granted,” said Pitino.
Pitino also addressed his team’s disciplinary issues from last year, saying he became a better coach from it and that everybody learned from it.
“When a guy gets in trouble, you’ve got to educate, but you’ve also got to look and say, ‘What are we doing? Are we doing everything possible we can do from a culture standpoint?’ We looked ourselves in the mirror,” Pitino said. “I looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘OK we’ve got to get better.’ ”
Pitino was asked about sophomore forward Jordan Murphy, saying he could be one of the better forwards in the conference.
“He was just a freshmen last year and there were times where he was one of the better freshmen on the court,” said Pitino. “He’s now starting to understand where to get his points. He’s become very difficult to guard in the low block.”
The coach added that Murphy is someone his team can build around.
Pitino then addressed the injury to redshirt junior Davonte Fitzgerald, who suffered a knee injury and will miss the season.
“Probably the biggest gym rat on the team,” said Pitino. “Then in practice, he goes down and as a coach, you try to calm your players down when there’s an injury. He just looked up to me and said, ‘I know it’s another one.’ That was a bit demoralizing.”
The coach said he called Fitzgerald that night and he texted him back saying thank you for letting him being a part of the team and that he’ll be back stronger than ever.
“He has not felt sorry for himself,” said Pitino. “I’ve almost felt more sorry for myself than he has. He’s encouraged me at times. It shows you the person he is and from a basketball standpoint, he’s going to be a big player.”
“It’s a little bit of a hit for us from a basketball standpoint, but hopefully if we stay healthy I think we’ll be OK with that,” said Pitino.