BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Andy Katz walked into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday afternoon and had a nostalgic feeling of two past lives overlapping.
On the court below the main concourse level he entered on were the Badgers of Wisconsin, where Katz attended college, and the University of New Mexico Lobos, the first team he covered after college as a beat writer for the Albuquerque Journal from 1990 to 1995.
“This was my worlds colliding,” Katz said during a podcast interview with the Journal.
The Lobos (6-2) bounced back from a bad Monday night loss to No. 18 Auburn in the Legends Classic to take the event’s third place game, 59-50, over the Badgers.
Afterward, Katz interviewed Lobo senior guard JaQuan Lyle for a video posted to the NCAA’s March Madness social media channels. It’s one of his many current gigs after spending nearly two decades with ESPN. He now works with NCAA.com, the Big Ten Network, Turner Sports and Fox Sports, among others.
But his journalism path started in 1990 covering the Dave Bliss-coached Lobos for this newspaper.
“I remember the Greg Brown year when they won the WAC at BYU,” Katz says, recalling some of his fondest on-court memories at the Journal. “Fans … know how great the BYU games were. There was a hatred, a passion.”
Katz also spoke fondly of past Lobo players, the night former Utah coach Rick Majerus was so upset after a loss in the Pit he walked home to the team hotel, and about how he met his wife Denise Padilla, an Albuquerque native who was working for the Associated Press at Journal Center when he was in the Journal’s sports department.
Katz worked at the Fresno Bee from 1995 until taking the ESPN job in 2000.
Now, three decades into his sports journalism career, he still loves his job and is rarely seen without a huge smile on his face.
As for his take on the current Lobos, he has a high opinion of the team Paul Weir has built.
“I thought that it has a good chance,” Katz said, “and I still believe this, that they’ve got the talent to challenge Utah State and San Diego State – even though Nevada won the Paradise Jam, I’m not believing in Nevada right now – for the Mountain West Conference title or be a team that, if they don’t win the regular season, can win the tournament because they’ve got all these pieces that will come together.”
He added events like the Legends Classic are good for UNM to get its brand out around the country at a time that regional recruiting is dying.
“Because the new world is transfers, which Paul obviously is mining in that world, you’ve got to get your brand everywhere,” Katz said. “There’s no longer a regional deal (in recruiting). I think if they can expose their program in more ways, especially on the East coast, especially where you have potential to get transfers from the Big East, from the A-10, from the Big Ten, from various leagues in this part of the country, I think it’s only going to benefit them long term.”
GAME UPDATE: The Dec. 7 UNM at Wyoming basketball game has been slotted for a 2 p.m. start time in Laramie and will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet, the Mountain West Conference announced on Wednesday.