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Richard Pitino's name tossed in Arkansas coaching rumor mill

Reporters are tracking flights from Arkansas to Minneapolis.

In six seasons as Minnesota's men's basketball coach, Richard Pitino has guided the Gophers to two NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT title.  

This year, the Gophers upset Louisville in the first round of the big dance, and now Pitino's name is being connected to a job opening at the University of Arkansas. 

But is Pitino seriously being considered for the SEC head coaching gig, and would he leave a Minnesota program that appears to be on the upswing under his watch?

According to AMP, and Arkansas-based website, Arkansas Athletics Director Hunter Yurachek flew on a private flight and made three stops this week: 

  • Monday in Iowa City, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. 
  • Monday night in Minneapolis, home of the Gophers. 
  • Tuesday in Reno, home of the University of the Nevada. 

The report connects the flight's travel to possible coaching candidates, Fran McCaffery (Iowa), Pitino (Minnesota) and Eric Musselman (Nevada).

Pitino's contract runs through the 2021-22 season with an average annual salary of $1.7 million, but he's been linked to job openings before. 

In 2015, following Pitino's second year with the Gophers, his father, Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, told Fox Sports Radio's Jim Rome that Richard "seriously considered" leaving Minnesota for a job opening at Alabama. 

"I've met with the Alabama athletic director, talking about different guys for that job," said Rick Pitino. "Richard's name came up, and Richard was seriously considering making that move." 

Respected college hoops reporter Jeff Goodman fanned the flames by tweeting a picture of Williams Arena saying he stopped by to look for Pitino but couldn't find him, then wondering if he was in Arkansas about the job. 

Meanwhile, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press, as recently as April 1, reported that Pitino is likely going to receive a contract extension with the Gophers. 

The rumors are running rampant and that's become pretty normal this time of year in Minnesota. 

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