Pitino: Coffey ‘100 percent smart' to test draft waters

Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino reflected on the 2018-19 season in a blog post on Wednesday, where he supported Amir Coffey’s decision to declare for the NBA Draft.

It doesn’t necessarily mean Coffey’s three-year career with the Gophers is over. He has until May 29 to either keep his name in the NBA Draft process, or return to school for his senior season. Pitino probably selfishly hopes Coffey returns, after he averaged 16.6 points per game to help lead Minnesota to its second NCAA Tournament in three seasons.

Coffey was selected third team All-Big Ten.

“I fully support his decision to test the NBA waters and go through the process of trying to get drafted. It’s 100 percent the smart thing to do,” Pitino said in his blog. “Player of the Year and first-team all-conference are within his reach if he returns! He can do it!”

Pitino also wasn’t afraid to criticize himself after the Gophers finished 9-11 in Big Ten play. They needed a home Senior Night win over Purdue and two wins in the Big Ten Tournament to watch the NCAA Selection Show without a sweat.

He pointed the finger at himself for offensive issues in conference play. The Gophers went extended stretches in games without scoring, and often times players were standing and watching on the court while one player tried to create a shot.

“I have to do a better job of generating easier baskets for our guys,” Pitino said.

The Gophers will have a vastly different look next season. Jordan Murphy, Matz Stockman and Brock Stull will all be gone to graduation. Isaiah Washington decided to transfer, and Coffey’s status won’t be known until the end of May.

But, the Gophers will have transfers Marcus Carr and Payton Willis eligible after sitting out this season. Carr could’ve potentially started at point guard for Minnesota this season if he had been granted immediate eligibility.

They’ll have Gabe Kalscheur back as a sophomore after being the Gophers’ top perimeter shooting threat in his freshman year. Pitino said the Gophers will need to improve their three-point shooting as a team after finishing 301st in the country from the perimeter.

Daniel Oturu will be back as a sophomore and should give the Gophers a consistent inside presence. Michael Hurt will be a senior and has a chance to provide value on the court, and Pitino hopes Eric Curry can get healthy in the off-season. He was never the same after coming back from knee surgery, then missing the last stretch games because of a foot injury that required surgery.

Minnesota has signed Tre Williams, a consensus four-star, top-150 player. The Gophers also have a verbal commitment from 6-10 center Sam Freeman, but still have three open scholarships for next season. They would have a fourth if Coffey didn’t return.

The future appears to be bright for the Gophers after a 22-14 season, enough that Pitino earned a two-year contract extension.