The ink has dried.
And now, Richard Pitino is really the coach of the UNM Lobo men’s basketball team.
Six months after their college basketball marriage was announced, and one week before the first official practices begin for the 2021-22 season, attorneys have crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s on the six-year contract between the university and the 39-year-old Pitino.
Pitino actually signed the contract in July, and UNM President Garnett Stokes and athletic director Eddie Nuñez signed the final version on Aug. 26. The Journal received a copy of the contract Monday.
The details of the deal that will pay Pitino a base salary and compensation package of $4.975 million over six years – $775,000 in year one, $800,000 for five seasons after that and $200,000 in retention bonuses – remain the same as what the Journal first reported March 18 from the initial term sheet of the deal. The contract makes Pitino the state’s highest paid public employee in terms of base salary and compensation before bonuses. UNM Lobo football coach Danny Gonzales earns $700,000 in base salary and compensation.
But there are now official terms for the bonuses Pitino can receive and details of the largely mirrored buyout penalty clauses both sides have agreed to should he leave the job before March 31, 2027.
Should Pitino choose to leave before March 31, 2022, he would owe UNM $2.4 million. That amount drops significantly as of April 1 each season – to $2 million in Year 2 of the deal, $1.2 million in Year 3, $600,000 in Year 4, $300,000 in Year 5 and no buyout in the final season of the deal.
UNM would owe Pitino the identical dollar amounts each season should it fire him without cause.
But Pitino, who spent the past eight seasons coaching the Big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers before accepting Nuñez’s offer of the Lobos job literally one day after he was officially fired at Minnesota, also has an clause that could reduce that buyout if his boss ever leaves or is fired from UNM.
“If, during (Pitino’s) Contract Term, Eddie Nuñez’s contract expires, he is terminated, or he otherwise no longer serves as the University’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, then the (buyout amounts) set forth in this Section shall be reduced by fifty percent (50%) for a period of the later of: (a) 90 days of the date of such separation; or, (b) the last day of the Contract Employment Year in which the termination occurred.”
Essentially, once Nuñez leaves, Pitino has 90 days to let UNM know he wants out, too, for a significantly reduced buyout.
Also, any coaching job he takes if fired, or any “employment as a media consultant, on-air personality or analyst,” would mitigate the buyout UNM owes him.
Pitino’s predecessor, Paul Weir, is now the athletic director at Eastern New Mexico University, and UNM is on the hook for $590,000 for firing him – $245,000 owed to Weir in each of the next two years and $100,000 owed to New Mexico State as part of the buyout agreement Weir had in place there before leaving to take the UNM job in April 2017.
THAT SALARY: As previously reported, Pitino gets $400,000 year in base salary, $200,000 annually for media obligations with any broadcast partnership UNM enters into, and $175,000 (year one)/$200,000 (each subsequent year) for promoting the program as Nuñez deems adequate.
There is a retention bonus of $100,000 after four years, then $50,000 after year five and year six, each.
BONUSES: There are about $65,000 in bonuses – or “incentive salary” payments for the lawyers – per year available to Pitino before the need to win an NCAA Tournament games.
Snapping the program’s longest postseason drought in the modern Lobo hoops era (considered by the Journal the start of the Bob King coaching era in 1960s), would get Pitino $10,000 for making the NCAA Tournament – either by winning the Mountain West tournament or by receiving an at-large berth – with additional bonuses that grow to as much as $100,000 with a national championship.
Pitino can also collect $10,000 for a Mountain West regular-season title, being named the league’s coach of the year, for any semester his players pass 80% of the classes they initially sign up for (aimed at both passing classes, but also curbing players from dropping classes), and $15,000 if the team’s Academic Progress Rate does not drop below 970 in any year. (The program’s APR has not been below 975 in any season in the past decade.)
OTHER NEW DETAILS: While largely standard in coaching contracts for football, men’s basketball and most women’s basketball programs, the “other” perks for Pitino include: a courtesy car; his wife and kids can travel to away games on the university dime; one country club membership; 12 men’s and 12 women’s basketball season tickets and for postseason games; eight football season tickets; and he received up to $25,000 to relocate from Minnesota.