Start filling up the Pit again and these things happen.
The University of New Mexico on Friday announced a pay raise and extra year for Richard Pitino, who is entering his third season leading the Lobo men’s basketball team. It follows an attendance increased by more than 30% in the Pit for the team’s games this past season, leading to higher-than-projected revenue from ticket sales, parking, concessions and men’s basketball-specific donations.
Over the life of the new contract, which UNM and Pitino began to negotiate last fall, his annual salary and compensation before bonuses will average about $1.2 million — up from what was about $817,000 per year — and will rank him among the top four earners among the coaches in the Mountain West Conference.
Pitino’s original six-year contract was to run through the end of the 2026-27 season. His new contract, signed April 24 but only announced by the school on Friday, is a five-year deal running through March 2028.
“My family and I have cherished our time in Albuquerque,” Pitino said in a prepared statement from the school. “We have one of the best fan bases in all of college basketball and they deserve a program to be proud of. I am so excited for what the future holds.”
He also said the “great progress” the program has made in his two seasons wouldn’t have been possible without the support of UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and UNM President Garnett Stokes.
“We are excited to commit to Richard Pitino to lead our men’s basketball program into the future,” Nuñez said in a UNM statement. “Over the last two seasons, I have been impressed with his leadership on and off the court and in the community. This past season, as our program saw success on the court, it coincided with significant increases in our ticket revenue, merchandise sales, concessions and donations.
“The time is right to invest in this program and I believe Lobo basketball has a bright future with Coach Pitino leading the way. This extension wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of key donors who share in this vision for the future of the program, along with the continued support of the university administration and board of regents, who recognize how the success of athletics brings a spotlight to the university.”
Nuñez confirmed to the Journal that Pitino’s increased salary portion will be covered by an endowment set up through the Lobo Club that is funded by donor contributions.
Nuñez said there is already enough money specifically earmarked toward that Lobo men’s basketball coaching salary fund to cover the first three years of the new five-year contract. He added there is also a fund that will increase the assistant coaching salary pool beginning in the coming season, but those details have not yet been released by Pitino or the school.
Among the bullet points of significant progress the university points to under Pitino’s first two seasons are attendance gains of more than 30% this past season; a win total that rose from six (four vs. Division I programs) in 2020-21 season before he arrived, to 13 in his first year and 22 this past season; and an NCAA NET ranking improvement in that time frame from 306 to 64. The gain of 242 spots is among the top three in the country.
In addition to a 14-0 start this past season, leaving UNM as the last unbeaten among 363 Division I teams, the Lobos were also invited to the NIT postseason tournament, the program’s first postseason event of any kind since March 2014. UNM finished 22-12 with a home loss to Utah Valley in the NIT.
A week later, while he and his family were in Tampa, Florida, for a pre-planned family vacation, the Journal did confirm that Pitino interviewed with the University of South Florida and received an offer for that school’s vacant head coaching position.
Pitino told the Journal he is happy at UNM, where he is confident the program can annually compete for a league title. He said he listened to South Florida for reasons, in part, outside of UNM’s control. His family visits the area regularly with one brother living in Tampa and another nearby. And USF was offering significantly more money; it later hired former Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim to a six-year contract worth about $1.2 million per year.
Nuñez told the Journal he was aware of the USF situation and at no time did it ever enter into anything that is in the new contract for Pitino, including any extra money.
Breaking it down
Pitino’s original contract signed in April 2021 was a six-year deal worth just under $5 million total and had him collecting this past season $800,000 in salary and compensation.
Here is the per-year base salary and compensation:
• 2023-24 — $1,100,000
• 2024-25 — $1,150,000
• 2025-26 — $1,200,000
• 2026-27 — $1,200,000
• 2027-28 — $1,250,000
• Total: $5,900,000
More specifically, the annual breakdown for Year 1 looks like this (any escalating compensation in future years noted in parenthesis):
• $400,000 annually in base pay
• $350,000 media obligations Year 1 (that elevates to $375,000 in year 2 up to $425,000 by Year 5)
• $350,000 program promotion Year 1 (that elevates to $375,000 in year 2 up to $425,000 by Year 5
Right off the bat, Pitino gets a one-time $75,000 “retention bonus,” though it is to be paid at the start of the contract, or more specifically “not later than 90 days after the effective date” of the new contract.
So, that’s essentially already banked “bonus” pay.
Other bonuses in the new contract, like the old one, include:
• $10,000 Mountain West championship
• $10,000 Mountain West tournament championship
• (only highest amount here): $10,000 NCAA Tournament at-large; $20,000 Round 32; $30,000 Sweet 16; $40,000 Elite 8; $50,000 Final Four; $100,000 National championship
• $10,000 MWC Coach of the Year
• $15,000 team APR of 970 or better; $20,000 of 985 or better
While UNM would owe no money of Pitino were fired with cause, the buyout the university would owe for firing Pitino without cause would be:
• $4.8 million if before March 31, 2024
• $2.7 million if in the 2024-25 season
• $1.2 million if in the 2025-26 season
• $312,500 if in the 2026-27 season
• Remainder of that year’s base salary if in 2027-28 season
All money owed to Pitino by the university would be mitigated if he found another college coaching job.
If Pitino were to leave for another job, the buyout he would owe UNM would be:
• $1.1 million if before March 31, 2024
• $750,000 if in the 2024-25 season
• $500,000 million if in the 2025-26 season
• $250,000 if in the 2026-27 season
• $0 if in 2027-28 season
Nuñez has shown a history of agreeing to reduced buyout terms for the coaches in second and subsequent contracts.
How it compares
Published reports in recent years have indicated the following annual salaries for Mountain West coaches (salary listed will be for the coming season, where known, and none reflect bonus incentives):
• $1.4 million — Steve Alford, Nevada
• $1.4 million — Brian Dutcher, San Diego State
• $1.1 million — Niko Medved, Colorado State
• $1.1 million — Richard Pitino, New Mexico
• $950,000 — Leon Rice, Boise State
• $900,000 — Danny Sprinkle, Utah State
• $770,000 — Kevin Krueger, UNLV
• $700,000 — Tim Miles, San Jose State
• $700,000 — Jeff Linder, Wyoming
• $500,000 — Justin Hutson, Fresno State
• not available — Joe Scott, Air Force