A nightmare during a daydream is the harsh reality of father and son Rick Pitino (Louisville) and Richard Pitino (Minnesota) competing for the same prospects. Away from basketball, the bloodlines run thick. But on the recruiting trail, let's just say the bloodlines run complicated.
Regardless, there is a mutual affection between these two. Richard has no desire to overcome a father's shadow nor is Rick the headstrong father who pushes a son into a profession he doesn't enjoy. Imagine the dinner conversations or bedtime stories when Richard was growing up. Like, once upon a time, a ball-handling wizard named Billy Donovan...
We all know about Rick Pitino, the Hall of Fame coach with seven Final Four appearances and two NCAA Championships.
We all know about the legendary coach who has taken three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four and two different schools (Kentucky and Louisville) to the top of the mountain.
We all know about the 62-year-old man who boasts a career record of 722-254 (.740) and a 368-125 (.745) tally in 14 seasons at Louisville, topping off a coaching career that spans five decades.
We all know about the sharp-dressed man in tailored-made Italian suits who restored the Kentucky program in 1989 after the recruiting scandal brought on by his predecessor Eddie Sutton, as well as, his two stints in the NBA with New York and Boston.
We don't know much about Richard Pitino, the 32-year-old that only has three years of head coaching experience. His first stint was with Florida International University in 2012. The Panthers finished the season 18-14, including a 79-55 loss at Louisville. Thus, the beginning of the father and son rivalry.
The 2005 Providence graduate and former team manager accepted the Minnesota job a year later. Pitino talked about the Minnesota job at such a young age: "I understand being Rick Pitino's son has opened a lot of doors. But being Rick Pitino's son isn't going to help me beat Tom Izzo on the road." Ironically, Minnesota beat Michigan State 96-90 on the road in February. Pitino is 1-1 against Izzo.
The Gophers won a school record 25 games and the NIT Championship. Last season Minnesota dropped to a 18-15 record, including a 81-68 loss to Louisville in the season opener in Puerto Rico.
Check out the Louisville-Minnesota Preview. Both coaches down-play the hype with very little insight.
His three-year totals reflect his knowledge of the game passed down from his father. Where Richard lacks experience, he makes up for with his youth, energy, and pedigree. Playing an up-tempo, aggressive style, Pitino is 61-42 overall and 43-28 in two seasons at Minnesota. However, he has struggled mightily against Big Ten opponents (14-22).
Which brings us to recruiting. His predecessor, Tubby Smith, had lackluster recruiting classes. Pitino didn't waste any time with his aggressive approach. He went after in-state 5-star Tyus Jones, and 4-stars J.P. Macura and Reid Travis when he arrived. None of the prospects panned out, but that hasn't deterred Pitino.
It didn't take long for the two to square off. 2014 was a competitive recruitment. Rick and Richard made offers to the same three players - Quentin Snider, Chinanu Onuaku, and Anas Mahmoud - and all three signed with Louisville. Nonetheless, Pitino and the Minnesota staff held serve with six solid signings and a Top 70 team ranking, an improvement from 86th the year before.
The Class of 2015 has Gopher fans excited. Minnesota capped it off with a commitment from Texas A&M transfer Davonte Fitzgerald May 26. He is a 6-7 small forward with length and athleticism. Fitzgerald won't be eligible until the 2016-17 season. This class ranks in the Top 50 and includes 4-star Kevin Dorsey and four other 3-stars, including home-grown Jarvis Johnson.
After a brief truce, Pitino and Pitino are both targeting Quentin Goodin and Rawle Alkins from the 2016 class. Neither player has commited, but Goodin is favoring Louisville. Richard has made 11 offers and is targeting 19 players, including a solid commitment from 6-6 small forward Michael Hurt from Rochester, Minnesota.
Unlike his father, Richard alternates between two suits come game day, had this to say about recruiting:
" We talk and text. There are some recruits all the schools are going after, not just Louisville and Minnesota. It really isn't an issue because there are times when I'm looking to meet this need and his needs are different."
As the rivalry stands, Rick is 3-0 off the court and 2-0 on the court. Little Richard has some catching up to do.
There will always be that giant, Hall of Fame-sized elephant in the same room as Richard Pitino, but he is determined to do his own thing, his own way, with a little input from his dad.