Found April 05, 2013 on Fox Sports North:
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MINNEAPOLIS The University of Minnesota pulled out all the stops to welcome the school's new men's basketball coach. The pep band, cheerleaders, fans and even Goldy Gopher all showed up as Richard Pitino was introduced at Williams Arena.It was a big moment for the Minnesota program, but an even bigger moment for the 30-year-old Pitino."I'm extremely excited about this opportunity," a smiling Pitino said Friday morning. "Minnesota basketball has one of the best traditions in all of college basketball. It certainly has one of the best home courts as well in Williams Arena, a very passionate fan base, a great University and a great conference."I truly believe the sky is the limit here."Pitino replaces Tubby Smith as head coach after Smith was fired last Monday following a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. If the name Pitino sounds familiar, it should. His father, Rick, is the current coach at Louisville and also won an NCAA championship at Kentucky.Richard Pitino, meanwhile, comes to Minnesota with just one year of head coaching experience. He spent last year leading Florida International University to an 18-win season, using that lone season of experience to land the job at Minnesota. But Pitino did learn as an assistant coach under his father at Louisville for three years and two years with Billy Donovan at Florida.Pitino's name was not the first that came to the minds of Gophers fans when the university began its coaching search, but athletic director Norwood Teague insisted Friday that he was high on Pitino from the early stages of the search."Rich was always on my list," Teague said. "We went through a search that we wanted to go through. We had it planned out and we executed it. We were very pleased with the search. It unfolded just like we wanted."Pitino's contract with Minnesota is a six-year deal that will pay him 1.2 million annually. There are also performance bonuses included in the deal, including 50,000 for winning the Big Ten title, 50,000 for earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament and 100,000 for winning the national championship. There are also academic-based bonuses relating to the Gophers' APR and team grade-point average.It didn't take Pitino long to bring up the style of play he hopes to implement at Minnesota. With the entire Gophers team sitting to Pitino's left, the 30-year-old coach talked about the up-tempo offense he envisions bringing to Minnesota next season."Our style of play is going to be fun to watch. I think you guys are really going to enjoy it," Pitino said. "It will be a lot of pressing. We're going to press on every possession, on every make. We're going to create offense from our defense. It's going to be a style that the kids like to play."Among the many topics Pitino was asked about Friday at his introductory press conference, the issue of a lack of a practice facility was brought up. It's something that Smith pushed for during his six years as coach, but it never came to fruition before he was fired.Pitino didn't seem concerned about the practice facility, or lack thereof."When I look around this place, we've got plenty to win at a high level. The practice facility will come and when it does, it'll be great," Pitino said. "But there's so much here we can use to our advantage and sell, you're going to get one of best degrees in country, best fan base, one of best arenas. We'll worry about what we do have now and worry about we don't have later."One thing Pitino made clear Friday: he's proud to call Rick Pitino his father, but he wants to pave his own path as a head coach. It began at FIU, and he's hoping to make a name for himself at Minnesota."People ask me all the time, Is it tough to be Rick Pitino's son?' It's not. I'm very proud to be his son," Pitino said. "I'm extremely fortunate to be his son. I embrace it every single day. I'd be silly to hide from it. He's a legend in this game. He's changed the game in many, many ways. I embrace it very much."Pitino left Friday after his press conference to head to Atlanta for the Final Four, where his father's Cardinals will play Wichita State on Saturday. The younger Pitino hopes for a possible home-and-home series with Louisville in the future."I wouldn't want to play them this year certainly, so we'll wait until he loses a couple of those players," Pitino joked. "I'd love to, if he'd be willing to do it. We were going to do it at FIU. Hopefully we can do something here. I think it'd be great. It'd be fun to go head-to-head. I would love to do it." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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