East Carolina’s Joe Dooley was once a Lobo assistant and multiple sources say he is very interested in the UNM Lobo coaching vacancy.
By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
During its first two decades, the Mountain West Conference has had some very successful, high-profile and even great coaches.
Names like Steve Fisher (SDSU), Rick Majerus (Utah), Dave Rose (BYU), Lon Kruger (UNLV), Eric Musselman (Nevada), Steve Cleveland (BYU), Larry Eustachy (CSU) and Steve Alford (UNM, Nevada) have won plenty of games and brought the spotlight to the league.
And there are others who had major success in the league, which helped them land Power Five jobs — like Larry Shyatt (Wyoming), Tim Miles (Colorado State) and Jim Christian (TCU).
And while Jim Boylen was ousted at Utah, he won a league title with the Utes and eventually became a head coach in the NBA.
All four are out of coaching.
And given the recent success of current Mountain West coaches who were in the league before, it would make sense that they might be looking into the vacant head coaching position at the University of New Mexico.
Enchantment Sports has learned that current East Carolina coach Joe Dooley, who was also once in the MW as an assistant under Fran Fraschilla at New Mexico, is definitely interested in the Lobo job.
This following, by no means, is a list of coaches who UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez is definitely considering as candidates, or who are necessarily even making a run at the job. Otherwise we would include Richard Pitino (Minnesota), Damon Stoudamire (Pacific), Frank Martin (South Carolina) and Orlando Antigua (assistant Illinois) as possibilities.
But the recent trend of MW teams hiring former MW coaches is interesting.
Here’s a look at five who were previously on the league sidelines, and could be interested in returning with UNM:
LARRY SHYATT: The former head coach at Clemson and Wyoming was also an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks and Lobo assistant under Gary Colson. He retired in 2019.
Shyatt helped rebuild UNM after the Lobogate scandal demolished the program in 1979-80.
He was an assistant coach from 1973-1997 when he got his first head coaching job and led Wyoming to a 19-9 overall record and 9-5 in the MWC with a berth in the NIT.
After just that one season with the Cowboys, he became head coach at Clemson and took the Tigers to the NIT in his first season after finishing seventh in the ACC. But that was as good as it got for Shyatt in his five seasons at Clemson, and he was fired after the 2002-03 season with a combined record of 70-84 and 20-60 in the ACC.
From there, he spent seven seasons under Billy Donovan for national power Florida, which won two NCAA Tournament championships in that time.
Shyatt was renamed head coach at Wyoming in 2011, and spent the next five years back in the Mountain West with the Cowboys going 98-69 and 37-47 in the league. The Pokes won the MWC tournament in 2015 to get the league’s only spot in the NCAA Tournament and lost to Northern Iowa as a 12 seed.
Shyatt announced his retirement after the 2015-16 season, then became an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks from 2016-2019 and hasn’t coached the past two seasons.
Shyatt has many close ties with Albuquerque, where two of his sons were born, and he was an assistant at Florida when UNM AD Nuñez played for the Gators.
JIM CHRISTIAN: He has been a head coach for the past 19 seasons at four schools, including having an enormous rebuilding job at then MWC member Texas Christian University when he took over in March of 2008.
Christian came to TCU after a brilliant six-year run at Kent State (137-59, 76-28 Mid-American Conference) in his head coaching debut. He took the Golden Flashes two two NCAA Tournaments and three NIT’s.
He went 56-73 overall and 18-44 in the Mountain West at TCU before a two-year stint at Ohio University, where his record was a stellar 49-22 and 25-9 in his return to the Mid-American Conference.
That landed him the head job at Boston College the past seven years. But Christian was fired in mid-February after the Eagles struggled through COVID-19 protocols and a 3-13 overall record and 1-9 in the ACC.
Christian finished his BC career with a record of 78-132 and just 26-94 in the ACC.
TIM MILES: He has a 399-334 record 24 seasons as head coach, including at North Dakota State, Colorado State and Nebraska.
In 2007-08, Miles took over a dismal CSU program that had seven straight losing conference seasons and returned just two players in his first year. The result was an 0-16 MWC finish. But the Rams improved steadily each season under Miles, culminating in 2011-12 when they went 20-12 and went to the NCAA Tournament.
The following year, he was named head coach at Nebraska and in 2014 took the Cornhuskers to the NCAA Tournament in his second of seven seasons. It was Nebraska’s first time in the tournament since 1998.
He was fired in 2019, despite leading the Big Ten’s Huskers to a combined 41-28 record in his final two years – both ending in the NIT. Nebraska was ranked in the Top 25 in two seasons under Miles after being unranked for 20 straight years.
His 116 wins are the third most in school history.
Two of Miles’ former assistants at Colorado State are currently highly successful coaches in the Mountain West — Utah State’s Craig Smith and CSU’s Niko Medved.
UNM deputy athletic director David Williams, who is assisting Nuñez in the search, came to UNM in 2018 from South Dakota, where he was athletic director and hired Smith, who led that program to great success.
JIM BOYLEN: Another guy with head MW experience, Boylen coached the Utah Utes for four seasons from 2007-2011 and took them to the NCAA Tournament in 2009.
He also has a boatload of NBA coaching experience, including two years as head coach of the Chicago Bulls. But he was fired in 2020 after going 39-84 in those two seasons.
Boylen was an assistant with the Indiana Pacers from 2011-13 — where he coached former Lobo star Danny Granger — then with the San Antonio Spurs from 2013-15.
The Spurs won the NBA title staff in 2014, the third time Boylen was an assistant for an NBA championship team.
He became the Bulls associate head coach in 2015 and the head coach for the 2018-19 season.
Boylen had two stints as an assistant at Michigan State — one under Jud Heathcote and the other under Tom Izzo — sandwiched around 13 years as an NBA assistant with Houston, Golden State and Milwaukee before getting the head gig with the Utes.
JOE DOOLEY: He is the only one on this list who never was a head coach in the Mountain West and who is still coaching this season. But he was an assistant in the league as former No. 1 man during Fran Fraschilla’s tumultuous three-year reign with the Lobos (1999-2002) — the first three seasons of the MWC.
Sources told Enchantment Sports that Dooley is very interested in the UNM job and he has been a head coach for a combined 12 seasons as head coach at East Carolina (twice) and Florida Gulf Coast, but his seat could be getting a littler warmer this year with the former.
Dooley was 57-52 and 30-36 in four seasons at Easter Carolina from 1995-99, then in the Colonial Athletic Conference, before joining Fraschilla at UNM.
After Fraschilla got fired, Dooley remained in the league as an assistant with Wyoming for the 2002-03 season. From there, he became the top assistant and a standout recruiter for Bill Self at Kansas from from 2003-13, which led to him becoming head coach at Florida Gulf Coast — and national recognition- the next five seasons.
Dooley was 114-58 with the Eagles and 57-17 in the Atlantic Sun Conference, taking the program to the postseason all five years and twice to the NCAA Tournament.
After that, it was back to East Carolina — now in the American Athletic Conference — but it’s been a struggle. In the three seasons since his return, Dooley is 29-49, 10-36 in the league and in last place for the third straight year in the 11-team conference.
While Dooley has coached in the MW, it was during the league’s first three years before it underwent a number of changes, like the departure of BYU and Utah and the addition of Boise State, Utah State, Fresno State, San Jose State and Nevada.
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for more than four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio and has been honored nationally for investigative reporting. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.