It is likely that we have all encountered failure and despair during the course of life. Sometimes we refer to it as “hitting the bottom.”
As we look back to that period, we judge ourselves on the basis of how we handled it. Did we blame others, curse our misfortune, or did we face ourselves and commit ourselves to success?
This is precisely the situation Coach Richard Pitino and his players found themselves in at the conclusion of last season. They had just finished one of the worse seasons in Gopher basketball history and were immersed in a sex scandal.
While I personally do not know precisely what transpired, I do know this. They did not blame others; they did not curse the darkness; nor did they proclaim a lot of optimistic nonsense about next year.
No, Coach Pitino quietly put together a solid self-improvement program known as PRIDE. The overall goal was to instill in each player a mature understanding of responsibility. He understood that character builds teams not just talent.
This new commitment by coach and players has produced a total reversal of last season. This is a team and not a collection of players.
This was most apparent in the Nebraska game when Pitino put in his reserves including walk-ons for the final minutes of the game. Yes, the fans cheered but it was the starters that cheered the loudest and longest. Led by senior Akeem Springs, they united in their genuine appreciation and affection for those who worked so hard in practice to make everyone better.
This one moment said it all: Coach Pitino has a TEAM and it is really good.
With their quickness, balance, solid bench strength and high energy, they will in my view take Wisconsin and go on to win the Big 10 tourney. They are clearly the hottest team right now.
In the NCAA, the Sweet 16 looks probably and the Elite Eight within reach.
Congratulations Coach Pitino – you are the coach of the year and likewise to the players – you are the pride of Minnesota.