Richard Pitino enjoys watching game film.
And he considers Tim Miles, the first-year coach of the San Jose State Spartans, a good friend.
But when the UNM Lobos’ first-year coach was asked Thursday if his preparation for Miles and the Spartans, who play in the Pit on Friday at 7 p.m., would include any deep dives to when the two were opposing Big Ten coaches – Pitino at Minnesota and Miles at Nebraska – it didn’t take him long to consider the idea.
“Well, I coached last year at Minnesota. He coached Nebraska, what, three years ago?” said Pitino. “I’m a film junkie. I’m not that much of a film junkie. I’m not going to watch three years ago.”
Besides, the current major rebuilding project both coaches and their programs are undergoing – the Spartans (7-11, 0-6 MWC) and Lobos (7-13, 0-7 MWC) are the only teams without a league win this season – seem to lead to far more attention being paid at the moment to self care rather than opponent scouting.
“I’ve gone against him long enough to understand – with where we’re at right now and where Tim Miles is at, I’m sure it has a lot more to do about San Jose for him, as well as it does New Mexico for us. We’re just trying to keep moving forward,” said Pitino.
After his team touched down in Albuquerque on Thursday afternoon, Miles had praise for the Pit (he was 0-5 in the arena as Colorado State’s coach), but also sort of regretted leaving one thing at home from those Big Ten days.
“We were just traveling and I’m like, ‘Oh man, I should have grabbed my Minnesota file,'” said Miles.
“Forget about it. His team is a lot different than (the Minnesota teams Miles remembers). They had such strength up on the front line.”
The two certainly have more than just Big Ten pasts in common.
When Miles took a couple years away from coaching and had a podcast – Inside the Mind of Miles – Pitino was his guest in December 2020, still the Minnesota coach.
Three months later, the two were the finalists for the open Lobos gig, both being interviewed by UNM athletic Director Eddie Nuñez.
It wasn’t long after that Miles got his wish for a Mountain West return, taking over the Spartans.
They coached against each other eight times in the Big Ten (Miles was 5-3), and Miles knows the Pit well from his time as Colorado State’s coach from 2007-08 to the 2011-12 seasons.
“Richard is a remarkably normal dude considering when he grew up his dad (Rick) was the head coach of the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, University of Kentucky, you know?” said Miles. “I mean, those were his formative years. And just imagine that you’ve had this Hall of fame dad that’s the coach of the most storied franchises in NBA history and NCAA history. But when you when you get to know Richard, he’s a very normal guy, very down to earth and a very good basketball coach.”
The respect, and optimism about the future, goes both ways for the two coaches.
“He’s gonna get it turned around. There’s zero doubt in my mind,” Pitino said of Miles’ task of pulling the SJSU program out of the basement of the MWC standings – a spot historically unfamiliar to the Lobos, but one the Spartans have held most of their existence in the league since joining in the 2013-14 season.
“We’ve always been pretty good friends. … He’s just a good guy. I really like him. I think what’s important to him is important to me in life in general – being a good person, being a good coach, and running your program the right way.”
MILES ON THE LOBOS: “I look at the Lobos and they’ve really performed well, even though they don’t have much to show for it in terms of wins. They’ve really performed well in the last two, three weeks, and have been very impressive, especially on the offensive end.
“You’ve got Mashburn (Jamal Mashburn Jr.) and (Jaelen) House who can really go and then those other guys, are all making 3-point shots. It’s really a headache to try and put together a defensive game plan.”
PITINO ON THE LOBOS: “For Year 1, with kind of where our roster’s at without a true low post threat, I think the offense has been pretty good. It’s the defense that’s the issue.”