The Norman Transcript

Sports

April 3, 2014

Brown, Mustangs face Pitino, Gophers for NIT title

NEW YORK — With two famous names on the sideline, the NIT championship has a New York feel.

One coach is a rising young star, the other is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. Both with boyhood ties to the Big Apple.

Richard Pitino leads Minnesota into the title game Thursday night against 73-year-old Larry Brown and SMU at Madison Square Garden, a building both basketball junkies revere.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in nearby Long Beach, Brown grew up going to games at the Garden and coached the resident New York Knicks to a 23-59 record during the 2005-06 season.

The 31-year-old Pitino, of course, is the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a Hall of Famer himself who guided the Knicks to a division crown and two NBA playoff appearances from 1987-89.

So it seems all too appropriate that Brown and the boy wonder will play for a postseason trophy on Seventh Avenue.

“Well, I know they have the Knicks’ dressing room, so what does that tell you?” Brown said on a conference call Wednesday, drawing laughs.

SMU (27-9) and Minnesota (24-13) were both disappointed to be left out of the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday. But each squad received a No. 1 seed in the NIT and made the most of it.

“I think really the only tough game, honestly, was the first game. I think that was where everybody was kind of let down a little bit,” said Richard Pitino, in his first season at Minnesota. “We’ve got three seniors who don’t want their college career to be over, and then we have got some younger guys who have an opportunity to win a championship.”

SMU is looking for its first NIT title. In fact, before Tuesday night, the only time the Mustangs had played at Madison Square Garden was a 76-72 loss to St. John’s in December 1950.

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