With one former Lobo coaching the Northern New Mexico College women’s basketball team this past season, the Eagles advanced to the Continental Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
So, J.R. Giddens, the former UNM Lobo great and former first-round NBA Draft pick who enters his third season coaching the NNMC women, decided adding another former Lobo couldn’t hurt.
The Española-based NAIA school on Thursday announced the hiring of former Lobo and former Legacy Academy head coach Chris Perez as the team’s new assistant coach and head strength and conditioning coach.
“My dream as a player was always to play in the Pit. My new dream is to get on the sidelines and coach in the Pit one day,” said Perez, who played for the Lobos for four seasons – three under Steve Alford (2010-11 through 2012-13) and one under Craig Neal (2013-14).
“This (college coaching) is something I’ve wanted to do, especially here in New Mexico. This is a basketball state.”
At the high school level, Perez most recently taught and oversaw the start of the boys basketball program at Legacy Academy in Albuquerque. Starting from scratch, the Silverbacks went 11-9 in their first season (2019-20), but were 9-1 against fellow Class 1A programs (Legacy that season did not compete in a district). There was no season in 2020-21 and this past season (2021-22), Perez was named District 7-1A coach of the year after the Silverbacks went 19-8 overall, including 11-1 en route to a district championship and a No. 8 seed in the state tournament. Both Giddens and Perez, who did not play alongside each other at New Mexico, share high-level college coaching aspirations, and both would love to one day coach the Lobos.
“I’ve known CP for a long time and I’ve heard nothing but good things about him (as a coach),” said Giddens.
“I know he’s very professional and he has a great passion for the game of basketball that we that we share. And I know he has the same dreams and aspirations as me of being a college coach at a high level or possibly for the Lobos one day.”
Giddens said defensive principles taken from both Alford and his former coach at Kansas, Bill Self, are important to his coaching philosophy. Perez said Alford’s style has always been evident in his coaching.
“He was an attention-to-details coach and that’s always what I’ve tried to remember to do when I’m coaching,” said Perez. “… Ultimately, it’s about doing whatever it takes to help these kids and help the team. It’s bigger than basketball. It’s going to be helping them with their schoolwork, their family emergencies, and whatever they’re facing.”
CHERRY BLOOD: For the last several years, former New Mexico State Aggie Billy Keys was an assistant coach for Northern’s men’s basketball team under head coach and athletic director Ryan Cordova.
Keys and Giddens, who are close friends, say they often talked plenty of trash to each another about their college roots.
Keys is now an assistant coach at NMSU and when Giddens had an opening on his staff, he was more than happy to bring on another former Lobo.
“We had to we had to get that Aggie blood out of here,” Giddens joked.