UNM coach Pitino says of high expectations: 'We’ve got to go earn it' - Albuquerque Journal

UNM coach Pitino says of high expectations: ‘We’ve got to go earn it’

UNM men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino, left, said Jaelen House is one of the favorite players he’s ever coached. ‘Everybody thinks like I hate him because I yell at him all the time. I love Jaelen House.’ (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

We’re still six weeks shy of the first regular-season game in the Pit, but as Monday opened the door for the first official team practices for the 2022-23 college basketball season, Richard Pitino knows the buzz is about to pick up again.

Albuquerque, after all, is still very much a basketball town — one growing increasingly desperate for a return to glory of nearly a decade ago.

Heading into his second season as the UNM men’s basketball coach, and fresh off turning 40 last week, Pitino recently sat down for a wide-ranging, 40-minute conversation with the Journal sharing his thoughts heading into the season on recruiting, the schedule, hanging out with his staff at Isotopes games, whether the elevated expectations for his program are warranted, putting up with his dad on Twitter, who the Lobos’ offseason MVP was and how much he missed spending time with the local media all offseason.

The conversation is included in Episode 47 of the Talking Grammer Podcast, which is available at ABQJournal.com/Sports, iTunes, Spotify, and several other sites where podcasts are available.

Below are a few excerpts from that podcast…

EXPECTATIONS: The Lobos were last in the Mountain West two years ago, ninth this past season and heading into the 2022-23 season will likely settle in as a preseason top five team — anywhere from as high as No. 3 in preseason polls to No. 5 according to most offseason predictions that have already been published.

“I’m excited about (the season),” Pitino said. “Expectations will be raised, I think rightfully so. But we’ve got to go earn it. It’s great when people are talking about us in a certain light because that provides fan interest and all those things. It’s got the makings of something, but it’s going to have to happen organically, I think. And the way that you do that is through the blood, sweat and tears on the court. And how do you fight through adversity and all those things.”

And the team’s mindset?

“I see a change, for sure, in the confidence in them this year, more so than last year when we were building.”

HOUSE VS. THE FRESHMAN: Asked how highly regarded freshman point guard Donovan Dent and boisterous returning all-conference point guard Jaelen House, who is known for talking plenty on the court to whomever is trying to guard him, have been coming along going against each other in practice.

“We were very transparent with Donovan,” Pitino said. “We feel like Donovan is the point guard of the future and maybe one of the best young point guards in the Mountain West. I think he’s terrific. The competition that you’re going to get against Jaelen House on a daily basis is going to be great for you. And that’s what’s going to make you be that all-conference player, whenever that is. …

“Jaelen is one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached. Everybody thinks like I hate him because I yell at him all the time. I love Jaelen House. But he’s not always focused and dialed in all the time. And Donovan Dent’s bringing that out of him. And that’s been really good for House.”

ON NEW MEXICO: While the Pitinos have lived in New Mexico for over a year, the first year still had plenty of COVID-related restrictions that limited some interaction with the community (and certainly fans’ ability to come to the Pit).

“Now that restrictions have been somewhat lifted for the most part, it’s been really good to be able to get out and meet people,” Pitino said. “Year 2 for my kids’ schools has helped as well, because it’s not a new school anymore. You know, the teachers. You know, all those things, which has been great. So it feels like home. It really does.

“I mean, anytime you move from Minnesota, which is a totally different culture, to New Mexico with three little kids, it’s going to feel different. And it did feel different. But I tell you what, I say this and it’s not just coach speak, I like it here every day a little bit more. I really do. I appreciate the unique culture. I appreciate the climate — it’s amazing. The quality of life. There’s not a lot of traffic. It’s easy. People are friendly. So, it’s been cool.”

The full podcast can be heard on the player above or on the links here:

The episode can be heard through the following links:

• SoundCloud
• iTunes
• Spotify

And the full 47-episode Talking Grammer podcast archive can be heard HERE.

Home » Sports » UNM coach Pitino says of high expectations: ‘We’ve got to go earn it’


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