Rich Pitino ‘99% sure’ Gophers to play Louisville in 2014
MINNEAPOLIS — Ever since Richard Pitino took the head
coaching job at Minnesota earlier this year, he’s been peppered with questions
about when the Gophers would play his father’s Louisville team.
The answer, it seems, is finally here.
Pitino said Monday on his blog that he is “99% sure” that Minnesota and Louisville will meet next
year on Nov. 14. The game is set to take place on a military base in Puerto
Rico and will be played in a hangar.
It’s something the Pitinos have discussed in recent months,
but Richard Pitino said he received a call last week from his Hall of Fame
father that ESPN contacted Louisville about a potential game with Minnesota.
“I said, ‘Where?’ And he said, ‘Puerto Rico.’ I
thought, ‘Why Puerto Rico?’ I don’t know why, but apparently Puerto Rico is the
destination,” Richard Pitino said Tuesday. ” I just thought about it.
If we want to get to where we’re going … that it’s all about elevating this
program with everything that we do. It’s not just about beating Florida State
tomorrow. We want to get to the level of Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana. I
think one of those things that you’ve got to do to do that is you’ve got to be
innovative with your scheduling.”
An early-season matchup with perennial power Louisville
isn’t the only way Pitino and Minnesota have been innovative in creating next
season’s schedule. Pitino also confirmed Tuesday that the Gophers will play in
the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It’s a tournament
that boasted high-profile programs such as Duke and Arizona in this year’s
Pitino and the Gophers hope playing in another nationally
televised tournament next year — much like the Maui Invitaional they recently
took part in — is just another way to promote the Minnesota brand and catch
the eyes of potential recruits.
“If you’re going to recruit the east coast — we want
to recruit nationally; we believe we can — given an opportunity to play in
Madison Square Garden, that’s as cool of an arena as you’re ever going to play
in,” Pitino said. “I think the best thing that I got out of Maui
really more than anything was our fans were awesome. We had probably 300 people
there. They were loud. They traveled well. They represent our university well.
I think when kids watch you play on TV and they see all these gold shirts behind,
they see, ‘OK, people care about their program.’
“Hopefully you go to Puerto Rico and you go to Madison
Square Garden next year and you see the same support.”
Louisville, led by Richard’s father, Rick, is the defending
national champion and is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation. What happens if
Richard’s Gophers fall flat against his father’s squad on national TV?
“I’m hoping they have a bad practice before and they
stink. They’re not always good early, so that’s my hope is they drop a few
early,” Pitino joked. “I think honestly, any time you play a team
like Louisville, you’ve got to understand what you’re going against. As much as
people are going to make it all about father-son, when that game starts it’s
all about between the lines.”
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