No one ever said being a college basketball coach was easy. Less than a year ago, there were many fans who wanted to see Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino fired.
Less than a year later, he has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
The conference made the announcement Monday – one day after Minnesota's regular season ended with a loss at Wisconsin.
Pitino led the Gophers to a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota finished the regular season at 23-8 and 11-7 in Big Ten play. He becomes the second Minnesota coach to earn the award – the first since Jim Dutcher in 1981-82.
The Gophers won eight of their final nine Big Ten games and managed the best win improvement in the NCAA and in program history – improving 15 victories over last season.
Pitino wasn't alone though, he had some help and several Gophers were recognized with Big Ten Conference Awards on Monday.
- Reggie Lynch was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
- Guard Amir Coffey was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
- Nate Mason was named All-Big Ten First Team
- Jordan Murphy was named All-Big Ten Third Team
After a bye through the first two rounds the Gophers open Big Ten Tournament play Friday afternoon against either Nebraska, Penn State or Michigan State.
Minnesota enters the postseason with a Top 20 RPI and strength of schedule. They are considered a lock to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2013.