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University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball

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About the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball

In 2013, Richard Pitino and his famous pedigree showed up on the Twin Cities campus, and he proceeded to coach the Gophers to a school-record 25 wins and a National Invitation Tournament championship. In 2017, Pitino was named Big Ten coach of the year after a 24-10 season. If he hasn't quite installed the uptempo offense and high-pressure defense for which his father, Rick, was known during his coaching days, he's still finding ways to win.

Pitino the younger's task is to restore Minnesota to something approaching the greatness of its early years. Of the Gophers' eight Big Ten championships, five of them were won before 1920. Three national championships — 1902, 1903 and 1919 — were retroactively awarded to the Gophers.

A Minnesota fan might very well wonder what the numbers would look like had the legendary John Wooden come to town. In 1948, Wooden, then at Indiana Teachers College, tentatively agreed to take the Gophers job, replacing Dave MacMillan, but as the story goes, Minnesota's athletic director was caught in a snowstorm and unable to reach Wooden by phone to make a formal offer. But Wooden did get a call from UCLA. Believing the Gophers had changed their mind, he quickly accepted the Bruins' offer.

The program may have missed out on college basketball's finest coach, but plenty of big names have come through Minnesota — among them players like Lou Hudson, two-sport star Dave Winfield, 1978 No. 1 pick Mychal Thompson, and NBA Hall of Famer Kevin McHale. 

The Gophers — so nicknamed after an 1857 cartoon in which state politicians were depicted as rodents for having given in too readily to railroad interests — play in Williams Arena. The stadium opened in 1928 and was named for Dr. Henry L. Williams, a football coach. It's notable for its raised playing surface, requiring athletes to climb stairs to reach the court.