Pitino: UNM’s NCAA return caps ‘fantastic journey’

  • Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Personnel WriterMar 16, 2024, 10:20 PM ET Close Paul Gutierrez joined NFL Nation in 2013 and works as its Las Vegas Raiders press reporter. He has a multi-platform function-writing on ESPN.com, television looks on NFL Live and SportsCenter, and podcast and radio looks. Before concerning ESPN, Gutierrez spent three years at CSN Bay Area as a multi-platform press reporter, covering the Raiders and Oakland Sports along with anchoring the SportsNet Central cable television news show. Gutierrez choose the Baseball Hall of Fame and is likewise a member of the Specialist Football Writers of America and presently serves as the PFWA’s Las Vegas chapter president. He is also a member of the California Chicano News Media Association and the National Association of Hispanic Reporters. Gutierrez has authored three books: Tommy Davis’ Tales from the Dodgers Dugout, 100 Things Raiders Fans Need To Know & Do Before They Pass awayand If These Walls Might Talk: Stories from the Raiders Sideline, Locker Space and Press Boxwith Lincoln Kennedy. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PGutierrezESPN

LAS VEGAS– San Diego State’s not likely go to the championship game game last spring opened the door for the Mountain West Conference to garner prevalent respect.New Mexico beating the Aztecs 68-61 in the conference tournament title game at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center Saturday afternoon allowed for more reverence on a national level. As in a record variety of Mountain West schools most likely to receive bids to the NCAA tournament. The most the Mountain West has actually ever received is five, in 2013.”Undoubtedly, we’re going to get six in the NCAA tournament,” stated third-year New Mexico coach Richard Pitino.”UNLV is as excellent as any of them, also. So it was simply, made-for-TV every night. Great players, great coaches, fan bases that truly care.”I keep in mind coming [to New Mexico]

thinking, Maybe it’s a bit of an action down from the Big Ten. Didn’t feel like it on a nightly basis. It really didn’t. I mean, jam-packed houses, national television, and there were simply wars every night. So, I know I got better as a coach breaking some of these remarkable coaches and programs and it was a long, long season. But extremely gratifying.”Editor’s Picks Going into conference competition play, the Mountain West had six teams in the leading 40 of the web rankings and Mountain West

schools boasted a combined record of 24-7 against Pac-12 and WCC schools.Only the Huge 12 and SEC are forecasted to have more bids.New Mexico, which made the Mountain West’s automatic quote and is 27-9, and San Diego State, which is 24-10 and has actually been forecasted as high as a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance, are assured berths.Then there’s regular-season champ Utah State(27-6), Nevada (26-7), Boise State(22-10)and Colorado State( 24-10). UNLV, which is 19-12, swept the Lobos and divided with the Aztecs, was the No. 4 seed however likely headed to the NIT.”It’s incredible,”said New Mexico senior guard Jamal Mashburn Jr., who was called to the all-tournament group after scoring 21 points with 4 rebounds versus the Aztecs.”We worked so hard to get to this point. … We had many ups and downs this year and all of us simply stayed positive in ourselves and we all just remained together. And, I suggest, it feels excellent to, I mean, it is

not over yet, but it does feel great to get a championship on my escape for sure.”The No. 6-seeded Lobos had to win four games in 4 days, the first string to accomplish that feat in the Mountain West’s 25-year history. They beat Flying force 82-56, Boise State 66-56 and Colorado State 74-61 to advance to the title

game.The No. 5 seed Aztecs outlasted UNLV in overtime 74-71 and Utah State 86-70. It is New Mexico’s very first NCAA appearance given that 2014 as the Lobos were just 6-16 3 years ago. It is their first conference tournament title given that winning 3 straight from 2012 to 2014, the Lobos’ fifth total tournament title.The Lobos utilized a 15-4 run over the last 7

minutes to retreat from the Aztecs, and New Mexico senior guard Jaelen House had a game-high 28 points, making 3 of seven 3-point efforts, and had three takes. He was called competition MVP.San Diego State senior forward Jaedon LeDee led the Aztecs with 25 points and added six rebounds.”Our guys never ever wavered from their confidence,”Pitino said.”They truly didn’t. And they entered into this competition truly believing that they could win it. So it’s why I got my family and took a threat and it sure feels like it’s settling right now.

I think [New Mexico is] among the best fan bases of college basketball.

I truly, really believe it. They are as bought this program, daily, as a Kentucky, where I matured for 8 years. I do not see a whole lot of a difference. “And they’re loyal. When we first got here, we were 303 in the internet, half the building was empty, and, to get guys like Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn to come to your school, without ever seeing school, and then having the ability to have this benefit, it’s simply an amazing journey. Truly, I’m very grateful and appreciative.” To underscore that, the announced presence for Saturday night’s game was 11,112

, an enthusiastic crowd that was a bulk New Mexico fans.Pitino, who coached at Minnesota from 2013 through 2021 and took the Golden Gophers to a pair of NCAA competitions, was asked what his father, Rick, the coach at St. John’s, might say to him after winning the Mountain West tournament.”Hopefully, very proud,

“he stated.”Anytime you get fired, it’s difficult as a young head coach and you’re Rick Pitino’s kid and everyone’s comparing you to him and you do feel a bit of a problem. I’m most likely not going to enter into the Naismith Hall of Fame, like he is, and that’s okay. But you’ve got to have a high level of belief in yourself.

And I wouldn’t have the ability to do this profession without having the ability to lean on my mommy and my dad and the assistance since they’re always there.” We’re far away from each other, however they’re constantly there. And I’m the person, the partner, the daddy that I try to be every day because of my parents. “

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