Written By Sam Ekstrom (ZoneCoverage.com)
A light-hearted moment managed to surface out of the Golden Gophers’ 73-63 loss at Purdue on Sunday in which they squandered a 13-point second-half lead.
A camera captured Richard Pitino’s four-year-old son, Jack, asking his father whether he could go to the bathroom during the middle of the game. Pitino quickly called over a manager to handle the situation.
— Dave Marren (@DaveMarren) February 4, 2019
Pitino gave more background to the story on Tuesday, explaining that he and his son were on the trip alone without Pitino’s wife, so the coach had given his son some important instructions before the game.
“I tried to lecture him over and over again, ‘Can’t go on the court, you can’t bother Daddy when he’s coaching,'” Pitino said, “and he only bothered me twice. Once was coming out of a timeout. … He said, ‘Daddy,’ and I’m like, ‘Ah, goodness, here we go.’ I thought bathroom break for sure. And he said, ‘Are you winning?’ And I said, ‘We are winning actually, good question.’
“And then the next one, legitimately, I’m sitting there watching and all of a sudden I see his head and I’m just like, ‘Oh my goodness, what is he about to do? Does he want a snack or something?’ Fortunately, I think I covered all the bases of not upsetting our fan base by ignoring the game and then pulling at the heartstrings of people for being perceived as a good father because, as we all know, we have moments where we don’t look like great parents.”
Pitino added that he normally takes his son to movies to give his wife a parenting break, but he wanted to bring Jack on a road trip since he was beginning to love basketball.
“He was MVP of the game because he was actually very well behaved,’ said Pitino, “and he fell asleep for the last three minutes of the game in one of the toughest places to play in the country, so it’s a lesson to my wife who always complains that I’m too loud, like opening up a drawer at night when the kids are sleeping, that they can sleep through anything. Lesson learned.”
The Gophers (16-6, 6-5) have yet to lose back-to-back games this season. They’ll look to move to 7-0 in games following losses when they face No. 19 Wisconsin Wednesday night. The Badgers have won five consecutive games and sit fourth in the Big Ten.
“It’s important to not go on losing streaks because they can snowball quickly in this league,” said Pitino, “and your schedule dictates a lot of it. It’s tough to win on the road. I think we’ve shown better poise lately, at Michigan, at Purdue, to do some really good things. But we didn’t win those games, so at the end of the day you just take it one game at a time. You’ve got to respond in this league the right way because it can spiral out of control quickly, so fortunate that we haven’t done that, but we’ve got to bounce back versus a very good Wisconsin team.”
Minnesota beat Wisconsin 59-52 in Madison back on Jan. 3 — their lone Big Ten road win of the year — and they’re attempting to sweep their border rival for the first time since 2008-09. They are 5-1 at home in the Big Ten with their only loss coming against Maryland.
“When we come off losses in the past, we just learn off those things and we correct those mistakes,” said forward Eric Curry. “Just going into the next game with a different mindset knowing that we won’t make those mistakes. We’re just going to play harder. We don’t want to lose back-to-back games.”
Back From Injury
Curry was limited to 12 minutes against Purdue because of a calf strain. Pitino hopes he’ll be full go Wednesday as Minnesota will be tasked with guarding All-Big Ten talent Ethan Happ down low.
Freshman big man Daniel Oturu scored 19 points against the Boilermakers but also struggled defensively at times against Purdue’s size.
“He’s obviously a very, very talented player who I think could potentially play at the next level one day,” Pitino said of Oturu, “but like most freshman they struggle with little things at times, and a game on the road at Purdue you learn from that. So as challenging as it is for a coach and a freshman in those situations, it’s only good for him in the end.”
Curry had averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in conference before having his minutes cut last Sunday.
“I feel better,” he said Tuesday. “I’m good, I’m gonna play.”