His body couldn’t suit up to play professionally anymore.
But David Chiotti’s mind and heart were still very much in basketball and with the Lobos.
So in mid-April, days after the University of New Mexico hired Paul Weir as its new head men’s basketball coach, Chiotti, the 32-year-old former Lobo who has never coached a day in his life, put on a suit and drove toward the Pit.
“When I first got here, I don’t know how many days in I was, but there was a lot of people coming in and out of my office — meeting players, coaches, a million people,” recalled Weir of his meeting Chiotti. “And there was a guy out front sitting in a suit waiting to talk to me all day. Finally — I didn’t know, so I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t have an appointment, I just wanted to speak with you.’ That was really the first impression he ever made on me.”
The conversation left an impression with Weir, who this week introduced Chiotti as the program’s new Director of Player Development.
It’s a new position not yet fully defined for Chiotti, who played at UNM from 2002-2006 and is one of 33 members of the Lobo’s 1,000-point club.
“I’m going to do whatever is needed to help build this program into a championship club,” Chiotti said. “Whether that’s assisting the videographer, whether that’s assisting practice planning or assisting in general day to day operations, that’s what I’m here to do.”
The NCAA allows oncourt instruction and drills to be conducted only by the head coach and three assistants. Chiotti’s role will likely entail mentoring players in other ways, from film breakdown to just being an intermediary when needed between players and coaches.
Chiotti said UNM assistant Brandon Mason, the former New Mexico State Aggie who Chiotti played against in the 2002-03 season, urged him to go with the in-person introduction to Weir as opposed to a phone call or email. Mason, then in a similar Director of Player Personnel position at UNLV before landing the UNM assistant job, knew Weir well from working with him at NMSU two years ago.
“After talking with Brandon, I said I’m going to put on my suit, I’m going to go down there and I’m going to figure out how to get through all those locked doors,” Chiotti said. “I got in here and I asked him just for a moment of his time and told him I’m willing to do whatever it takes. If it’s laundry, if it’s fetching coffee, if it’s wipe the floors, I’m ready.”
Chiotti’s professional career ended in 2014 and included stints in Italy’s top league and a spot on the Italian National Team.
But his body — his knees in particular — brought an end to that.
“The way I played destroyed my body at a younger age,” Chiotti said.
Does he regret that style?
“I don’t regret it at all. The way I played, the passion I played with, I knew it wasn’t the type of game that would play until I”m 40. The way I played, I knew it was going to be a shorter professional career. I gave it my all until it gave out on me.”
LATE ARRIVALS: UNM’s two international recruits have not yet attended class.
Makuach Maluach, a guard from Australia, was scheduled to arrive Wednesday night.
Vladimir Pinchuk, a forward from Germany, has not been cleared to travel to the United States.
“(Vladimir Pinchuk) has an appointment on Friday for his student visa and hopefully will be leaving right after that,” Weir said. “Hopefully, we’ll get him in here this weekend.”
While there is a chance Pinchuk won’t play this year, if he arrives this weekend, Weir said there should be no problems with his eligibility.
TRYOUTS: UNM is hosting a walk-on tryout Friday for current UNM students.
JOHNSON GYM: Weir said there will be a Cherry-Silver scrimmage held in Johnson Gym this fall aimed at students and on-campus staff in addition to the Lobo Howl in the Pit.