ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Four years ago, Chris Perez joined the University of New Mexico basketball team with fellow newcomers like Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Tony Snell.
While Snell landed the first post-college basketball job of that bunch a year ago when he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, Perez on Wednesday became the second of the group to learn he’ll be collecting a paycheck thanks to hoops. (Bairstow, Kirk and Williams are all eligible for tonight’s NBA Draft.)
Perez, the four-year walk-on Lobo guard on Wednesday accepted a varsity assistant coaching job at Bosque School.
“Since I’ve known the guy, I’ve known him to be a gym rat,” said Bosque varsity coach Malik Waters, who confirmed the job has been offered to Perez pending completion of a background check. “Coming from one gym rat, I think that’s big. I think he’s going to be a great asset to have. I know he wants to get into basketball coaching. He’s only been done with basketball a couple of months now and a lot of people have already been coming at him wanting him to coach, so I’m happy that we snagged him.”
Perez, who won’t complete degree requirements to become a teacher until December, will be an assistant coach for the varsity team and coach the Bosque School seventh-grade team for a season that runs from early January through late February.
He said Wednesday he can’t wait to learn from Waters, a former star player at Holy Cross in Massachusetts in the late 1990s.
“Coach Waters is the guy,” Perez said. “My big thing was I need to continue to learn from somebody. He has good intentions and the AD has good intentions as well in terms of what they want from the kids. It’s about winning on and off the court.”
Perez said he chose the walk-on route at UNM knowing he was sacrificing playing time he could have had at a smaller school in favor of the on-the-job training, of sorts, he knew he’d receive from UNM head coaches Steve Alford (2010-2013) and Craig Neal (2013-14 season).
“That’s why I did it. That’s why I stepped into that program,” Perez said. “I knew I wasn’t going to play much, but I knew I was going to learn a lot about basketball at an elite level and it would help me one day with the coaching I wanted to do.”
And now, he hopes to pass on his knowledge while at Bosque. “I need to make sure they use this experience, this sport to better the rest of their lives,” Perez said.