Is the U of M building a case to get rid of Richard Pitino?


It has been a tough stretch for the Minnesota Gophers men's basketball program.

An 8-23 season and an embarrassing run of off-court issues has landed Gophers coach Richard Pitino on the hot seat.

The Pioneer Press notes Pitino met with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and new athletic director Mark Coyle in the last couple of days.

According to the report, he also met with the program's top incoming recruits – Hopkins star Amir Coffey, Rochester John Marshall senior Michael Hurt and Arkansas native Eric Curry.

The Star Tribune asked Pitino if he thought the university was building a case to get rid of him.

"I certainly hope not. I want to be here for a long time, and I like our team. I look at what we've got coming back. We were pretty close against some very good opponents last year. Sometimes you have to lose to learn how to win. I think those guys did that, and I'm going to grow from that as well – along with a recruiting class. So I hope they want me to stay and hope they believe in me because I believe in what we're doing and I believe we will turn it around."

A troubling few months

The program's plummet has been quick and embarrassing for an image-conscious athletic department still recovering from the black eye left behind from the Norwood Teague sexual harassment investigation.

Not only did Minnesota lose a record 23 games last season, but the off-the-court issues have been many.

It's a list that could mean trouble for Pitino with a new athletic director, who was specifically hired to bring integrity back to the athletic department.

"I'm profoundly disappointed in the continuing episodes, poor judgment, alleged crimes and it simply can't continue," said University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler during his opening statements introducing Coyle Wednesday.

For his part, Pitino knows the pressure is on as he told The Associated Press.

"Obviously he's coming in at a time when I'm not the most popular guy right now, and I understand that. But I've got to show him my vision. I've got to show him what I believe we're all about. I've got to show him what we need to do differently and how we can do it and make sure people are proud of the product on the court as well as off the court."

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