ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – University of New Mexico Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez announced Tuesday that Richard Pitino is the next head coach of the men’s basketball team. The 38-year-old coach was only on the job market for about 12 hours after his departure from the University Of Minnesota. Pitino spent eight seasons as Minnesota’s coach and led the program to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2017 and 2019. He replaces Paul Weir who was let go in February after four seasons as head coach.
“It is a great day for Lobo Basketball and for everyone who loves our program and our University,” said Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez in a news release. “Richard Pitino is a proven winner with a track record of success on the court, including deep tournament runs and wins over nationally ranked programs, as well as proven success off the court by creating a tremendous student-athlete experience and supporting them as they earn their degrees. I welcome Richard, Jill, and their three children to The University of New Mexico and to Duke City, and I am excited for the future of Lobo Basketball.”
In total, Pitino has been a part of seven NCAA Tournaments, including two as a head coach. He has also been a part of three Elite Eight runs and one Final Four berth as an assistant. “My wife Jill, our children, and I are very excited to join the Lobo Family,” said Pitino in a news release. “I want to extend my sincere thanks to President Stokes, Eddie Nuñez, and David Williams for extending this opportunity. Lobo Basketball holds a special place in the hearts of New Mexicans, and I cannot wait to get started.”
Perhaps Pitino can come to New Mexico and do what the last coach from the big ten did. Steve Alford won a lot of games at New Mexico after coming from Iowa. Pitino is the son of Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Rick Pitino. The younger Pitino won 141 games and lost 123 in 8 seasons at Minnesota.
Pitino led his team to the NCAA tournament twice and won an NIT championship in his first season at the school. The Lobos and Pitino have agreed on a six-year deal. How much money will Pitino make and what will his buyout be is undisclosed. Nunez says the language of the deal is still being finalized. “His vision, his approach to the program, how he’s going to build it. Why this job is so special. I knew from the beginning that this is a guy who can really resonant with our fan base,” Nunez said.
Pitino is expected to arrive in Albuquerque later this week. A formal press conference to introduce the new coach has been set for Thursday. Pitino has the job of turning around a Lobo program that had its worst season ever in the Mountain West with only two wins and 15 losses.