New Mexico to hire Richard Pitino as next coach less than 24 hours after Minnesota firing


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Richard Pitino is set to be hired as the next head coach of the New Mexico men’s basketball program less than 24 hours after Minnesota announced his firing, sources confirmed to CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander on Tuesday. Pitino will replace Paul Weir, who was fired in February amid a 6-16 season for the Lobos.

Pitino spent eight seasons as Minnesota’s coach and led the program to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2017 and 2019 before posting losing records the past two seasons. Former Nebraska coach Tim Miles was also reportedly in the running for the New Mexico job.

It was clear after Minnesota’s exit from the Big Ten Tournament last week that Pitino was already eyeing the future with an understanding that his tenure with the Gophers may be coming to an end.

“Not a lot bothers me,” he said. “What am I gonna do, talk my way into things? That’s not what I do. I have respect for authority. That’s really it. It’s not my decision. We all have bosses, that’s OK. I do have a great relationship with Mark (Coyle). If he gives me some bad news, that doesn’t mean I’m going to flip a desk or anything. Life goes on.”

Though the New Mexico program has struggled as of late, it’s a job with a track record for sending coaches on to bigger gigs. Steve Alford went 155-52 with the Lobos between 2007-13, and parlayed that success into landing the UCLA job. Another former New Mexico coach, Dave Bliss, won NCAA Tournament games with the Lobos in four straight seasons from 1996-99, and was then hired by Baylor in the Big 12 — although his tenure with the Bears then ended in scandal.

Current Chicago Bulls coach and former longtime Florida coach Billy Donovan was an influential voice behind the scenes in Pitino’s hiring at New Mexico, according to a source. Donovan coached New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nuñez at Florida and later employed Pitino as an assistant with the Gators.

At just 38, Pitino has the time to rebuild his brand in the profession and position himself for another shot at a high-profile job. His father, Rick Pitino, is currently enjoying a renaissance of his own as the former Kentucky and Louisville coach just led Iona to an NCAA Tournament berth in his first season on the job. The elder Pitino offered counsel during the process that led to Richard Pitino’s quick rebound with the Lobos.



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