LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Ryan Miller may still be employed by the Auburn Tigers, at least for now.
But as random fan after fan walked up to him on the concourse of the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday night before the University of New Mexico/Boise State semifinal game in the Mountain West Tournament to wish him well and say they missed him, you could see he’s still very much a part of the Lobo family.
“I still follow everything these guys do,” said Miller, who was a UNM assistant from the 2007-08 season through 2012. “You grow close with these guys (the Lobo coaching staff and players), and they’re family.”
Miller is in a bit of a state of flux at the moment. While he’s still employed by Auburn, the Tigers on Wednesday fired head coach Tony Barbee after the team’s loss in the SEC tournament. Now, Miller must wait to see who is hired and whether he will still have a job there under the new coach.
For now, he’s happy to get a chance visit with the Lobos and former boss Steve Alford, whose UCLA Bruins are playing down the road in the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand.
Miller, along with current UNM head coach Craig Neal and former assistant Wyking Jones, now an assistant at Louisville, were the key figures in the program-solidifying recruiting Class of 2010 for UNM that included current seniors Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams and walk-on Chris Perez; junior Alex Kirk, who sat out a season after back surgery; former Lobo Tony Snell, who left school last year and was the No. 20 overall pick in the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls; and transfers Emmanuel Negadu, who played 10 games before heart issues ended his career, and Drew Gordon. As a former professional player in Australia, Miller also used his ties there to recruit junior guard Hugh Greenwood.
BURQUE BETTORS: The Vegas casinos and sports books are Lobo fans this week. To a point.
As the Lobos have enjoyed success over the past several years in the Mountain West tournament, and more and more fans of the program have decided to make this week an annual trip, Las Vegas-area sports books and casinos have become fans of the program because of the business the team brings in.
Albuquerque native and New Mexico State University graduate Jay Rood – the vice president of Race and Sports Book for MGM Resorts International, which oversees 12 sport and race books (10 in Las Vegas and two in Reno) – said the house roots for the Lobos in the sense that as long as they keep winning, Lobos fans will keep betting on them. But when the Lobos cover the point spread, as they did Thursday night in a comfortable win over Fresno State, the house takes a hit.
The “sweet spot” for Las Vegas sports books when it comes to the Lobos, Rood said Friday, is to have UNM keep winning games but not by enough points to cover the point spread.
BOOING BOISE: As Boise State cheerleaders walked from their hotel room to the team bus Friday at the South Point, the same hotel the Lobos are staying at, hundreds of Lobo fans lining the casino floor for the daily pep rally/send-off for the Lobos basketball team booed loudly.