With their 8th straight win last night, a 88-73 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, University of Minnesota basketball improved to 23-7 and seem to be on track after a disappointing 8-23 season last year.
Head coach Richard Pitino joined The Jim Rome Show on Friday and shared the wisdom he learned from last year’s struggles, his 3rd season with the program, after a successful first two years of rebuilding Golden Gophers basketball.
“I will say, people can accept losing in year one and two, but it’s hard for people to grasp year three,” Pitino said. “I always thought that rebuilding processes are different.
“At some point, you may have to rebuild in year three and that’s a tough, tough pill to swallow. And you’re going to make some mistakes, and I think we made some mistakes recruiting-wise where we took ownership of. We just had to believe in the plan, believe that we would push through and believe that last year as difficult as it was, was going to be beneficial for our guys that was very, very difficult to do especially when you’re not winning games, and you’re kind of on an island. When you lose, you got to have a bunker mentality and I think our guys did a pretty good job of that.”
The younger Pitino shared his reaction to his Hall of Famer father’s advice for his team’s 2015-16 struggles being exactly what he needed.
“I don’t know if I needed that, I needed something else,” Pitino laughed. “I’ll tell you what, the expression ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ I do believe last year taught me so much more than any of the year’s I’ve been a part of. Not necessarily from a basketball stand point, but from running a program standpoint.
“People think with coaches that you have to be hard on your players, but when you lose, you got to make sure you have to keep your locker room intact, and if there’s something I’m proud of, I think we did that.”
Pitino continued, “I just felt like you have to be positive, when things go bad in today’s world ,they go really bad, they’re magnified, especially with young people who live in the social media world, it gets magnified even more. So you got to make sure you show them a lot of love and you got to get them to understand you care about them as people. You’re here to help them, so last year definitely taught me that. And then the most important thing is when you’re not winning, your family is the most important thing because they don’t care if you win or lose, so that part of it definitely put things in perspective for me.”
Pitino said being raised by a successful coach like his father had its advantages, but also acknowledged his parents never allowed him to be exempt from real life struggles.
“He was very tough on us and still is. At 34-years-old and still tough on you,” Pitino said. “But we’re very, very lucky. And I’m sure like your children as well. And one thing I was very, very aware of, and whenever again you have a famous father, people are going to label you something, and I don’t know if it necessarily bothered me, but I was aware of it.
“My father is a terrific father, my mother is terrific, everybody talks about my dad, but my mom as well, but they were going to hold us accountable. It doesn’t mean we weren’t very fortunate, we were very lucky I’ve had so many awesome experiences of just being around this. So I’m extremely grateful, but he was tough on us. He would treat you like a player, and hold you accountable and that’s the way it should be, and I’m really, really grateful for it. For both my parents for doing that, because I think it’s helped me in the long run and hopefully I will do that with my kids as well.”