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Updated: December 10th, 2013 10:55pm
Rick Pitino visits Williams Arena and provides incredibly lofty goal

Rick Pitino visits Williams Arena and provides incredibly lofty goal

by Pat Donnelly

MINNEAPOLIS -- Austin Hollins scored his 1,000th career point in the Gophers blowout win Tuesday. But that wasn't the only highlight of the evening.

The other had to be the presence of Louisville head coach - and father of the Gophers' coach - Rick Pitino. The elder Pitino watched his son coach a couple of times last year at Florida International, but his presence on Tuesday caught Richard by surprise.

"Somebody asked me, 'When did you know he was coming?'" Richard Pitino said. "Legitimately, when I walked on the court and I saw him, and I saw my idiot brother yelling at me."

Rick Pitino sat behind the bench wearing a maroon sweater with a maroon-and-gold scarf. It's a motif his son would like to see him wearing more in the future.

"He looked good in that maroon and gold," Richard said. "I think if one of our guys gets a job, we'll just slide him right in as an assistant coach. I did three years with him (as an assistant) - he's got to pay me back."

The Gophers players definitely took notice of the elder Pitino's presence in the building. And Rick had a chance to talk with the team after the game, telling them to set their sights high.

"He's a legend, so it's always good to play in front of a legend. It feels different, like he's critiquing everything," Mathieu said. "He told us we have the ability to be a Final Four team if we just think we are a Final Four team. If we just go out there every day and get better on defense, he feels like we're a good team and we can make it to the Final Four."

His son provided a bit of a clarification on those charges after the game.

"I think what he's saying - and I've said this to our team - two years ago when I was an assistant coach and we went to a Final Four at Louisville, we started two walk-ons," Richard Pitino said. "By no means am I saying we're a Final Four team. But what we had on that team was we had great chemistry, we had great substance, we were very humble, and we went on a run. If we don't lose those things, and obviously if we continue to get better, we can do the same. We've just got to believe it."

The Pitinos will face each other next year in the regular season - if not somewhere in the NCAA tourney this spring - and Richard said he'll lobby his father to bring his Cardinals to Williams Arena the following year. But even if it's his final visit to the Barn, it'll remain a good memory for Richard.

"I brag about this place so much that I wanted him to see it, so I'm happy he had a chance to see it."

Patrick Donnelly covers Golden Gophers men's basketball for He has covered the Minnesota sports scene, from pros to preps, for the last 15 years for a variety of outlets.
Email Pat | @donnelly612