Lobo hoops notes: Pitino completes staff with Mountain West veteran - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo hoops notes: Pitino completes staff with Mountain West veteran

New UNM assistant coach Tarvish Felton
Tarvish Felton, seen coaching the Fresno State Bulldogs, has been hired as an assistant coach for the UNM Lobos. (Photo courtesy Fresno State Athletics)

In the past four seasons Tarvish Felton spent on the bench at Fresno State, including the last two as associate head coach, the Bulldogs went 8-1 against the UNM Lobo men’s basketball team.

It’s time the Lobos see what that’s all about.

Richard Pitino on Monday announced he has hired Felton as the team’s third assistant coach, filling the vacancy created in early July when Andy Hill left the program to take a job near family at Montana State.

“The biggest thing you are going to see from Tarvish on a daily basis is his infectious enthusiasm on and off the court,” Pitino said in a news release from the school. “Staff chemistry is very important to me. All of the things we ask of our players, we ask the same things of our staff, and I think he is going to work hand-in-hand very well with everyone in our program.”

Felton joins a staff of Eric Brown and Isaac Chew as the team’s three assistants and Dave Pilipovich, the former Air Force coach, whose title is Special Assistant to the Head Coach.

Pitino singled out experience as a primary requirement he was seeking in the position when asked about it on July 13, noting then that he thought “one of the reasons why we went from what we took over to where we are now — and we have not arrived — is I had a really good, experienced staff (in Year 1). We’ve all been doing it a while. We all understand what this is all about. What I sell to my team, I sell to my staff. We got to work together.”

Felton has been coaching for more than 20 years, including nine seasons in the Mountain West — the past four at Fresno State and five of his 10 seasons at Utah State were since the Aggies joined the conference for the 2013-14 season (they were in the WAC prior to that).

“I really believe that New Mexico basketball has always been one of the best brands in the country,” said Felton. “The tradition, history and community support make it a very attractive place to be. I look forward to being a part of that and expanding that tradition moving forward.”

Under head coach Justin Hutson, Fresno State had a pair of 20-win seasons in Felton’s four seasons there and he helped develop big man Orlando Robinson, who is currently signed with the Miami Heat. In his decade at Utah State, coaching under Tim Duryea and legendary coach Stew Morrill, the Aggies had five 20-win seasons, including two 30-win seasons in the WAC when one of the team’s top rivals was the New Mexico State Aggies.

“Tarvish has terrific Mountain West experience,” Pitino said. “I have a lot of respect for what Justin (Hutson) does at Fresno as well as what Stew Morrill did at Utah State. He has learned under some really good coaches, has a great basketball mind, is a very good recruiter and our program has gotten a lot better with his addition.”

Felton is a 1999 graduate of Southern Utah and still ranks among the program leaders in several categories from his playing career there.

UNMSU SUMMER EDITION: While the mixing up of mascots or names of the UNM Lobos and NMSU Aggies is common in season for both basketball and football from national media outlets, Monday featured a rare Summer edition from the Bahamas.

The Aggies played, and beat soundly, Nassau’s Discount Distributors Rockets 105-78 in the first of four games they will play in five days in their Bahamas Foreign Tour.

The game was live streamed on YouTube with the headline: New Mexico State Lobos vs. Discount Distributors Rockets before being fixed after the game had started.

The NCAA allows foreign tours in the summer time for teams once every four years. The UNM Lobos have not taken such a tour since 2013 before the first season of the Craig Neal era when they went to Australia.

FAMILY FEUD: Though the Iona game against the Lobos in the Pit isn’t until Dec. 18, the Pitino vs. Pitino build up is already started.

Iona coach Rick Pitino posted on his Twitter page last week: “Just ended a quick one hour practice – 13 players totally focused on getting better! The best backcourt in the nation at New Mexico better be ready,” referring to all the offseason accolades returning all-Mountain West guards Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. have been getting with the Lobos.

His son, the second-year Lobos coach, responded on Twitter with: “Only four more months of this. …. What was I thinking?”

Father and son will coach against each other again in 2023 when UNM plays at Iona.

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