Updated: 04/05/2013 12:28 PM KSTP.com By: Darren Wolfson
Gophers basketball recruits Tyus Jones (Apple Valley) and Rashad Vaughn (Cooper) aren't talking to reporters this week, but they gladly took phone calls from new coach Richard Pitino on Wednesday night.
Vaughn, in particular, is said to have come away impressed. A likely future NBA player, he wants to play in an offense that will showcase his skill-set, and an offense that will run. Pitino will do that, or at least try. Former coach Tubby Smith often mentioned wanting to, but never really did.
Pitino tried to call the third of the local "Big 3", Reid Travis (DeLaSalle HS), but wasn't able to connect. Assume he will in the very near future.
• Pitino had dinner with Gophers director of athletics Norwood Teague, senior associate athletic directors Mike Ellis and David Benedict, school president Dr. Eric Kaler and others on Thursday night at Kaler's residence. He was schooled big-time on what to expect at Friday morning's news conference.
• Former Gophers player and current Rockets assistant J.B. Bickerstaff was never contacted about the job. He said he's heard good things about Pitino, including from his player, Chandler Parsons, who got to know Pitino when the two were together for two years in Florida.
• Since special assistant Steve Goodson and video coordinator Bryan Bender are still technically on the Gophers staff, they get their trip to Atlanta for the Final Four fully paid for. The rest of ex-coach Tubby Smith's staff was told on Sunday that they will have to reimburse the University for their flights and hotel rooms. It's not unheard of for schools to pay for ex-assistants to go to Final Four weekend for networking purposes, but in this case, Teague made the decision not to.
• Even though the hire of Pitino is the type of bold move this author likes, it was disappointing that Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was never under consideration -- not that he would've said yes. In fact, he probably would've said no. But it never hurts to try. Word on Thursday night was much like the Wolves did their due-diligence last summer and decided that acquiring Andre Iguodala wasn't worth it, the same is true of the Gophers with Marshall.
• The real story will likely never come out, but multiple sources insist that Flip Saunders was never offered the Gophers job.
• As alluded to in a story earlier in the week, not only was Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg blown away by Teague, but he came close to making the phone to say yes, he wanted to be the hire.
• The Gophers were plenty fine with Andy Enfield going to USC. However, they did call him.
• Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe signed this week with noted NBA agent Andy Miller. He represents Kevin Garnett, Jamal Crawford, and a handful of other high profile players.
• The Vikings never made a call on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Their sole focus in free agency at the moment is to retain cornerback Antoine Winfield.
• A league source when asked Thursday if he's heard anything definitive about Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn's future: "They haven't confirmed their draft mini-camp in May (which is atypical for this time of the year), so maybe things are up in the air."
• Emptying out the notebook after a chat with Twins owner Jim Pohlad on Monday: "Our expectation is to get better. We're starting from a low bar in that regard with the last two seasons. But we expect to better. ... There's definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but how long is the tunnel? We believe the tunnel is short. ... We believe we will compete (this year). Look at the spring training we had and the people we brought in. Then the maturation of the guys we have."
• The elephant in the room is the payroll deduction over the last two years -- "We never sat around and said the payroll would be $81 million. It is what it is and it will be whatever Terry (Ryan) wants to do. ... I have 100 percent faith in Terry and Gardy." So why not extend your manager? "Personally, I'm not a contract guy at all. Nobody who works with me on a daily basis has a contract, so I don't get hung up on that contract and I don't think Gardy is either."
• When asked if he still sees himself owning this team 5, 10 years down the road -- "Yes. Yes."
• Aaron Hicks' agent, CAA's Joe Urban, was at Target Field for Hicks' debut on Monday. Urban, who also represents former Twins outfielder Denard Span, said Hicks and Span have "a special bond" and talked once a week in the offseason.
• The Twins had a few discussions with pitcher Chris Young's camp at the winter meetings, and were genuinely interested, but passed this week -- there were no talks. Young was available for a bit until returning to the Nationals on a minor-league contract.
• Before signing a minor-league deal with Baltimore, pitcher Freddy Garcia had four other teams trying to sign him. The Twins were not one of those teams even though they had some interest in him in December.
• The Twins got a call this week about outfielder Ryan Sweeney, but quickly said no thanks. He went to the Cubs on a minor-league deal.
• Former Gophers director of athletics Joel Maturi on his recent trip to China: "Dr. Jim Turman, director of Recreational Sports, and I spoke three times to university students, faculty and staff. Dr. Turman spoke on the purpose of Recreational Sports at American universities and I spoke on varsity athletics at Minnesota and other colleges. It was the trip of a lifetime."