5 potential candidates to replace Richard Pitino as Minnesota's basketball coach
Minnesota reportedly parted ways with basketball coach Richard Pitino on Monday after eight seasons.
Here are five potential candidates (plus one bonus option) that Minnesota could consider as they look for a replacement.
Brian Dutcher makes sense on a number of levels. For one, he’s excelling at San Diego State. He has the Aztecs back in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years (and his 30-4 team in 2020 would have made it if not for the pandemic). Secondly, he’s a Minnesota alum who also has experience as a Big Ten assistant at Michigan and Illinois.
The only obvious downside to hiring Dutcher is his age. At 61 years old, he doesn’t have the upside that a lot of athletic directors like to prioritize when hiring a coach. But for a program that has just two tournament appearances in the last eight seasons, hiring a stable option like Dutcher seems like a sensible move.
Porter Moser will be one of the hottest names on the market this cycle. He has Loyola-Chicago back in the NCAA Tournament as an 8-seed, just three years after leading the Ramblers to the Final Four. He chose to stay in Chicago last time, but maybe now he feels that he’s reached Loyola’s ceiling? Moser doesn’t have any direct ties to Minnesota, but would be a great hire for the Gophers.
Craig Smith is another name that should start picking up heat on the coaching carousel. He’s currently in his third season at Utah State, and has led that program to essentially three NCAA Tournaments. Although the Big Dance didn’t happen last year due to the pandemic, the Aggies won the Mountain West Tournament before the shutdown so they would have been included in the field.
The 48-year-old also experienced success at South Dakota (79-55 in four seasons) before taking the Utah State job. He was born in Stephen, Minnesota, and is apart of the Tim Miles coaching tree.
Frank Martin is clearly the most accomplished name on this list. With rumors abound that South Carolina is upset with how the Gamecocks have performed the last couple years, it’s possible Martin will look for an exit strategy.
If Minnesota could get him, it would be a home run. He’s put together excellent stints at both Kansas State and South Carolina and has a .593 winning percentage for his career.
The connection here is obvious. Eric’s father, Bill Musselman, was Minnesota’s coach from 1971-1975. He also coached the Timberwolves from 1989-91. Under Bill Musselman, the Gophers made the 1972 NCAA Tournament and had an overall record of 69-32.
But beyond that connection, it’s tough to see Minnesota prying Eric Musselman away from Arkansas. He has the Razorbacks humming as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and has been able to attract NBA-level talent to Fayetteville. He’s the pie-in-the-sky hire for Minnesota, but don’t hold your breath.
Bonus candidate: Niko Medved
Another Minnesota alum, Niko Medved would make sense for the Gophers if they have to move on from their top candidates. Medved is currently the head coach at Colorado State and doing quite well — the Rams were on the bubble this season and will be a No. 1 seed in the NIT. Medved was an assistant with the Gophers from 2006-07 and has been a solid head coach at Furman and Drake.
However, he’s not quite as accomplished as some of the other names on this list. He’s yet to make the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. Medved seems like he’ll be a power conference coach in the near future, the timing might just not be right for the Gophers.