Posted: 10:38 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013
By Luke Zimmermann
THE MODERATOR: Next up is Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino.
COACH PITINO: Thank you guys very much. Appreciate you guys coming. It's been‑‑ since I took the job‑‑ certainly a whirlwind, as everybody can imagine. But it all starts with just getting these guys to understand the culture that we're trying to play with and just start it from there with recruiting every single day and getting these guys to understand what we're all about.
Q. I'm sure you haven't heard this question yet. Any advice from Dad about what the transition is like to‑‑ what the transition is like to a power six conference and how you've adjusted to that?
COACH PITINO: I haven't spoken to him since I took the job, so...
No, people ask me that a lot, just about is there one piece of advice. There's not one piece of advice. There's so many things on a daily basis, so many little things just that as a coach you don't deal with when you're at a smaller school, smaller basketball program to where you're at now.
So I talked to him several times a day about the little things. So I'm lucky to have him. Very fortunate.
Q. Can you just talk about this experience just coming to meet a lot of your peers here and just kind of get a feel of what it's like to be in the Big Ten as a head coach?
COACH PITINO: Yeah, it's pretty cool. Normally growing up I was always the guy kind of off to the corner and made to come to these things with my dad or whatever it may be.
So it's exciting, and it just shows you how great this league is when you walk down the hall and you see a Tom Izzo or you see a Thad Matta, or you see a Tom Crean or a Coach Beilein or whoever it may be.
Then you see all these other guys who are great coaches as well. It just shows how strong this league is, how established all these programs are, and just the traditions are unbelievable.
Q. Most of your background, Big East and SEC. Watching a lot of tape during the summer of the Big Ten, anything make it look different to you than other leagues you've seen?
COACH PITINO: Yeah, I mean, I think the one misconception I think is everybody thinks it's a grinded‑out league. But I watched Indiana's exhibition game yesterday while I was working out and they want to run.
I've watched Michigan State. They want to get out and run. Ohio State. All these teams really want to get out and run. I think people think it's a grind‑'em‑out, physical league, but when I was in the Big East the first time around it's probably as physical as it gets.
So, no, I think they're all great styles‑‑ they're pretty similar to a lot of the programs I'm used to. I think what happens is as you get into conference, the game slows down a lot. I think that's just the way it works, especially with officiate and so on.
So it's not as different, I think, as people may think.
Q. Just wanted to know what kind of an identity are you looking to establish with your team?
COACH PITINO: Well, I would hope when you watch our team play that it's a team that plays extremely hard, plays together. Certainly would like to create offense from our defense. We don't really want to slow up, run a lot of sets. That would not be ideal for us. Like to create a lot of turnovers. That's something that's really important, create a lot of possessions is important, trying to get a lot of steals.
Last year at FIU we were eighth in the country in steals. That was something we tried to hang our hat on and try to generate as much offense from our defense and hopefully be one of the best conditioned teams in the country.
Q. Along those lines, from a conditioning standpoint, how has the team taken to that, and are you as assiduous about body fat percentages as your dad is?
COACH PITINO: It runs in the family. We had a kid, Mo Walker, who was 310 pounds when we got the job. He's now 260 pounds, a little bit less than that.
Extremely important. I believe in it. I hired the strength coach who was at Kentucky who was with my dad and with the Celtics. That's very much a part of what we want to do.
I believe more than anything certainly conditioning is huge, but it provides confidence for these guys. Mo Walker now feels great when he walks on the court because he's in the best shape of his life. That's very much ‑‑ we try to hang our hat on that as much as possible. And the way we want to play, you can't get tired.
Q. Who are some of the coaches that you maybe know the best and maybe you've talked to since you've been here already?
COACH PITINO: I've known Tom Crean for a couple of years. He was at Marquette when we were at Louisville and I know him a little bit. He's been great. Coach Izzo, we played them when I was at Florida and we played them when I was up at Florida, and he's always been real kind to me. And I've known all the guys. John Groce, when he was an assistant, I was an assistant. Pat Chambers was an assistant at Villanova when I was an assistant.
They've all been great. I'm the young guy in the league, one of the youngest coaches out there. They've been very receptive to me. They've given me great advice, been guys that I can lean on, which is nice to see.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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