By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
It’s unlikely to be Midnight Madness, a la 2002, when then-University of New Mexico athletic director Rudy Davalos called a late, late, late-night news conference to announce Ritchie McKay — and not Rob Evans, despite nationwide reports — would be the next Lobo men’s basketball coach.
Still, while Midnight Madness/Lobo style probably won’t happen this go-around, given UNM’s recent history, who knows when the news will break?
In 2002, Evans turned down the offer — long after most Lobo fans had gone to bed and were ready to welcome the Hobbs native as the new keeper of the Pit keys in the morning — which created quite a stir.
Shortly after dissing New Mexico, Evans said Davalos scrambled down the hallway at the Final Four hotel he was at, and offered McKay the job.
McKay accepted it, and the media was summoned to a news conference at UNM just prior to midnight to announce the hiring — “But it’s not someone anyone is expecting,” former UNM sports information director Greg Remington said.
It was one of many frantic Lobo coaching searches during the past two decades.
And they just seem to get more chaotic with time — and the Internet.
The (2007) Steve Alford era began after a wild search. Then came Craig “Noodles” Neal (2013), who landed the job after a booster- and Internet-led campaign.
After Neal was fired in 2017, James Borrego was offered and accepted the job — only to have a change of heart shortly thereafter, and in came Paul Weir.
This go-around is more of the same, with rumors running rampant via the web during the two weeks since Weir was ousted as Lobo coach.
Information and actual candidates have pretty much been under wraps, which is a credit to UNM.
Or is it a no-look pass?
On Saturday, Enchantment Sports reported three candidates, Richard Pitino, Tim Miles and Kyle Keller, have been interviewed for the job.
But are they a smokescreen to allow UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and deputy AD David Williams to give the Heisman to the media, fan sites, boosters and anyone who remotely gives a howl?
Possibly, but sources confirmed the three truly are very much in the running.
Still, are they the only three in line for the job?
Obviously not, because they all could go other directions.
Despite what you might have read on the web or heard on sports talk radio, claiming Miles — then Pitino — had been hired.
On Saturday night, Williams told Enchantment Sports there are “No updates. Job has not been offered. Same timetable for announcement that Eddie hoped for.”
When asked, via text, what that timetable was — since Nunez didn’t announce one during his only Zoom conference about the search two weeks ago — Williams didn’t respond.
Miles (formerly Colorado State and Nebraska) currently isn’t coaching, Keller is at Stephen F. Austin and Pitino — for the meantime — is at Minnesota.
The latter is widely expected to be fired in days.
“We haven’t really covered where (Pitino) might be going, we’re just dealing with the future after he’s let go,” a Minnesota Golden Gophers beat writer told Enchantment Sports on Saturday night.
Williams also didn’t answer when asked how many candidates have been interviewed or how many will be.
So barring a post-Midnight Madness news conference — and remember, it’s daylight savings time — the search looks to continue into Sunday, and probably beyond.
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.