DES MOINES, Iowa — Minnesota coach Richard Pitino had the predictable thought when he saw the Gophers would play against Louisville in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“When you see Louisville pop up, you’re more about, ‘What am I going to say to the media? How am I going to lie to the media?”’ Pitino said. “You have to be prepared for those questions.”
Prepared he was on Wednesday, a day before the 10-seed Gophers face the 7-seed Cardinals in the East Regional. After allowing a brief peek into his initial thinking, Pitino downplayed the fact that he’s coaching against the school where his father Rick coached for 16 seasons and won a national championship in 2013 before being fired in 2017.
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Richard Pitino worked two stints as an assistant for his father at Louisville.
“From an emotions standpoint, when you play in the Big Ten, there are so many emotional games,” Pitino said. “I learned that. I’m only 36. That’s a young head coach. But you have to keep your emotions in check. I think I do a pretty decent job of that.
“When I’m watching film and I’m watching Louisville play, it’s about not really what the name on the front of the jersey is, but I’m watching a really good team in Louisville, a really well-prepared and well-coached team with a lot of good talent and how can I put myself in a position to help our team beat them?”
Rick Pitino, who is coaching in Greece, has been quiet publicly about the matchup.
“I spoke to him once,” Richard Pitino said. “It’s not real easy to get a hold of people in Greece. We didn’t talk much about anything other than he asked about (injured Gopher Matz Stockman) and how he’s doing. He asked about the team.”
Much of his day-before-game press conference was filled with questions about the issue, but Pitino said it hasn’t been and wouldn’t be a distraction for him.
“I’m excited about the fact we’re in the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I’ll play whoever. I’m excited. There’s not one part of me that isn’t 1000 percent honored, appreciative, humbled by the fact that we’re in the NCAA Tournament.
“You’ll never hear me ever complain about anybody that we play.”