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Gophers' Pitino named to ESPN's top 50 coach countdown

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After one season at the University of Minnesota and just two seasons as a head college basketball coach, Richard Pitino is already garnering attention as one of the top men's basketball coaches in the country.

ESPN has started a list of the Top 50 College Basketball Coaches in the country.

Pitino, who led the Gophers to the NIT Championship in his first season at Minnesota, has never an NCAA Tournament game, but finds himself on the list at No. 49.

Of Pitino ESPN says:

Someone made an impression in his first Big Ten season, huh? Richard Pitino, all of 31 years old, guided the Gophers to the NIT title in 2013-14, a strong finish to an encouraging first season. (And one that provided a shot of his father, Rick Pitino, screaming from courtside at one of his son's guards that the Gophers had no timeouts left, while Louisville guard Peyton Siva sat beside him laughing. Dads are so embarrassing!

ESPN only released portions 25-50 of the list Monday. They will begin releasing the final 25 names on Tuesday.

It's a little surprising that after one season Pitino made the list, while some successful coaching veterans did not.

Indiana coach Tom Crean did not after leading the Hoosiers to the NCAA Sweet 16 in two of the last three years and a Big Ten regular season title in 2012-13. Crean also led Marquette to the NCAA Final Four in 2003.

Also excluded was Purdue coach Matt Painter. He has taken Purdue to the NCAA Tournament six times since and has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year three times since 2008.

Pitino was one of three Big Ten coaches on this portion of ESPN's list.

Some other coaches with Minnesota connections made the list as well.

  • Smith, now at Texas Tech, is No. 39. Smith took over the Texas Tech program and brought immediate credibility back to it. According to ESPN, the Red Raiders jumped from 233rd to 83rd in adjusted efficiency in his first season.
  • Nebraska coach Tim Miles is ranked 32nd by ESPN. Miles took the Huskers to their first NCAA Tournament since 1998 this season. Miles gained national attention, while he was the head coach at North Dakota State, prior to that, he coached at led NCAA Division II Southwest Minnesota State from 1997-2001.

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