NEW YORK – A final word of notes, quotes, observations from the 2014 NIT.
The first is a simple one. The term “classic” often gets overused, but how else to describe the tournament, especially the championship, a game that saw 14 ties and 17 lead changes?
- During the last minute of the final, Richard Pitino glanced over by where his dad was sitting. One writer asked if he looked for any advice. “No,” Pitino said, “I get paid well to coach this team by myself,” he added with a touch of humor.
- Rick Pitino was asked post game if he gave his son any tips on SMU, a team his Louisville club swept this season. “Not really,” Pitino said. “He did ask about a few fine points which I had advice, but he’s his own coach, did his scouting and devised his game plan.”
The younger Pitino added, “My team and my father’s (Louisville) are different. What worked for them against SMU might not work for us.”
- SMU coach Larry Brown on scoring one field goal the final 1:41: “I think we got to the foul line a number of times there. We hit a three, all the rest of the time we got fouled. Our problem was they got 21 points off of turnovers.”
- The crowd at the final was 5,268. Unfortunate, as this game was a thriller to the final buzzer.
- Austin Hollins (NIT MOP) of Minnesota led all scorers with 19 points. Sophomore guard Nic Moore paced SMU with a solid 17-point, seven-assist outing against just two turnovers.
- Minnesota’s staff has a distinctly New York flavor. Assistant Dan McHale worked at Seton Hall with Kevin Willard for three seasons prior to heading to Minnesota. Kimani Young, who yours truly officiated for and found to be a good coach and pleasure to work for, directed the New Heights AAU program before joining Norm Roberts at St. John’s. Young then worked for Pitino at Florida International before they moved to the Big Ten school.
- McHale on Seton Hall: “Kevin (Willard) did a phenomenal job this year taking in all their injuries. They (Seton Hall) are going to be very good next season.”
- Brown on the NIT experience: “I don’t buy this thing you learn from losses. I’m just thankful again, for the Garden, for the NCAA, for the NIT, for giving my kids a chance to participate in this and see all those fans from Dallas. People not from Dallas don’t appreciate where this program was and how appreciative we are of the people that have come and supported us.”
- Neither team shot particularly well from the line. SMU was 15 of 22 (68 percent). Minnesota shot 10 for 17 (59 percent). SMU’s inside game was a concern for Minnesota, but the Mustangs managed only a two point (26-24) advantage on points in the paint.
- You are up three with seconds left and on defense. Do you defend or foul to prevent the game-tying three? Minnesota chose to foul. Nick Russell of SMU hoped to hit the first and miss the second but wound up doing the opposite. Minnesota then inbounded. The buzzer sounded. The party, for the Golden Gophers, was on.
On the Baseline
All four schools brought bands and cheerleaders. Sight-seeing New York was a favorite activity. The SMU cheer squad though, mentioned shopping at SoHo as another enjoyable outing.