Search No More: Pitino Is Right Fit for the Pit

By Mark Smith
Enchantment Sports
Editor in Chief

Whew, that was wild.

They always are.

But another coaching search in the books.

I started writing a column with all my thoughts about why Richard Pitino is an excellent hire for the University of New Mexico, and why this seems so similar to when Steve Alford came to UNM in 2007, but that’s old news by now.

Interesting how few Lobo fans recall being disgusted with hiring a losing Big Ten with eight years in the league back was back then, huh?

I’m already on the record stating Pitino will have the Lobos in contention for a Mountain West title within two years.

Oh yeah, I have plenty of other thoughts. But during the Zoom conference with UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez today, I realized that all the media have the same answers to everything out there right now.

Is Pitino the answer Lobo basketball so desperately has needed since “Lobo For Life” Alford left in 2013?

I truly believe so. Not because of how Steve Alford worked out, but because Pitino has the name, the connections, the coaching ability and knowledge from his famous father and the right job at the right time.

But back to the Zoom conference, I had to smile listening to the Albuquerque Journal’s Geoff Grammer asking some of the exact questions I had on my notepad — and thinking about how crazy his job was the past two weeks since Enchantment Sports broke the story of Paul Weir’s ouster.

I was in Grammer’s shoes for 15 years on that same men’s basketball beat, and going through a coaching search is brutal. I had them in 1999, 2002 and 2007.

Plenty of sources felt compelled to get me involved during the “We Love Noodles” campaign in 2013 and again in 2017, the latter when current Charlotte Hornets coach and Albuquerque native James Borrego was offered and accepted the Lobo job, but it couldn’t be finalized.

As usual, Geoff did a great job. He took over for me when I left the beat (NDA prevents me from further details), and I can say he’s by far the best sports journalist in this town.

I knew that before, and that was reinforced during this process while we worked similar sources.

I can only speculate, but I think we kept each other on our toes throughout this search while allowing those hard-hitting and investigative sports radio talk shows something to chat about.

Other than Eric Martinez.

But that’s another story (read here, if you like).

Back to Grammer, and the beat is all his again. At least for now.

I was going to write about looking forward to seeing his details and interview with Pitino in tomorrow’s paper, then realized that it will be internet ready tonight.

As a long-time print guy, sometimes I forget about that place where QAnon, Social Justice Warriors and all the real journalists hang.

So I’m posting this, and Grammer’s link right here.

No, I’m not a big fan of the paper, and I would think the feeling is mutual.

But Grammer is a good guy and good reporter and I appreciate his work. I’d think he does mine.

He might even credit me for coming up with a few good stories during this search, as well as providing the UNM marketing department a hand:

“Welcome to the PIT—eeno.”

Because he knows, “We Are New Mexico!” started in a similar place.

Right Alford?

Oh well. Still searching for those royalties.

.

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.

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