Richard Pitino out after 8 seasons as Gophers basketball coach

Head coach Richard Pitino of the Minnesota Golden Gophers looks on in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center on March 01, 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin. ((Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images))

Minnesota's 79-75 loss to Ohio State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament last Thursday has marked the end of Richard Pitino's tenure with the Gophers.

Athletic Director Mark Coyle announced Monday night that the University of Minnesota has parted ways with Pitino as the head coach after eight seasons.

"I recently met with Richard and told him that we were moving in a different direction. Richard is a tremendous person and coach, and I want to thank him, Jill and their family for their commitment to Minnesota. We wish them well in their next endeavor.

"Decisions like this are never easy, but after evaluating this season and the previous eight years of our program under Richard, it is clear to me that new leadership is needed. We have one of the best practice facilities in the nation, a historic competition venue and a state that produces top-caliber talent. This is an extremely attractive job, and we will immediately start a nationwide search for our next head coach," Coyle said Monday night in a statement.

The Gophers finished the 2020-21 season 14-15, including a 13th place regular season finish in the Big Ten with a 6-14 record. In eight seasons, Pitino's Gophers finished above .500 in conference play just once. That was in 2016-17, when Pitino was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year after going 11-7. Otherwise, Minnesota finished 10th or worse in the Big Ten in five of the last eight seasons.

Pitino, 38, will leave Minnesota with a 141-124 record, including a 54-94 mark in Big Ten play. He came to the Gophers after one season at Florida International University.

Pitino has a buyout of $1.75 million to terminate his contract, but reportedly interviewed for the head coaching position at New Mexico over the weekend. According to Jeff Goodman, a national college basketball analyst with Stadium Network, New Mexico is hiring Pitino as its next head coach. It remains to be seen what that means for Pitino's contract buyout with the Gophers.

Minnesota went 0-10 on the road in league play this season. It's the second time in Pitino's eight years the Gophers went winless on the road. Their only win away from Williams Arena came in beating Northwestern 51-46 last Wednesday on a neutral court in the Big Ten Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The real downfall for the Gophers came in their last four regular season games. With Liam Robbins and Gabe Kalscheur both out battling injuries, Minnesota limped into the Big Ten Tournament after losses to Northwestern, at Nebraska, at Penn State and the regular season finale to Rutgers. Three of those four teams finished at the bottom of the Big Ten, along with the Gophers.

The Wildcats snapped a 13-game Big Ten losing streak against Minnesota, and Nebraska earned its second Big Ten win of the season against the Gophers. At one point this season, Minnesota was 11-4 and ranked as high as No. 16 in the country after wins over Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The Gophers entered the Big Ten Tournament on a seven-game losing streak before beating Northwestern in the opening round, and had lost 10 of their last 12.

In his eight seasons with the Gophers, Pitino led Minnesota to two NCAA Tournament appearances and one victory. The Gophers also had their first player drafted, Daniel Oturu, since 2004, after last season.

Coyle is scheduled to speak with reporters via Zoom Tuesday morning.