Louisville has talked with UNM coach Richard Pitino about coaching vacancy

Mar. 26—UNM Lobos coach Richard Pitino, or his agent, have had conversations with the University of Louisville about its vacant head coaching position.

Pitino, who just completed his third season at UNM culminating with ending the men's basketball program's decade-long NCAA Tournament drought, was twice an assistant at Louisville — 2007-09 and in the 2011-12 season — before starting his head coaching career at Florida International in 2012 and then coaching eight years at Minnesota.

Pitino has had end-of-season meetings with players this week with the plan of returning to UNM, but obviously such situations are fluid — for players and coaches.

Pitino, 41, coached at Louisville under his father, Rick Pitino.

Following a federal investigation into "pay for play" allegations, Louisville let go of Rick Pitino in 2017. The elder Pitino was later cleared by the NCAA of any wrongdoing and his firing was changed to a resignation.

Here is what Richard Pitino said about that situation in November when asked by the Journal:

Former Xavier coach Chris Mack replaced Pitino at Louisville and coached from 2018 to 2022 until the two agreed to part ways. Kenny Payne then took over the program and was 12-52 in two seasons.

Louisville Athletic Director Josh Heird fired Payne two weeks ago.

The Cardinals have since targeted but been turned down by Baylor's Scott Drew and former Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May, who has since accepted the head coaching job at Michigan. Other names that have appeared in published reports of who Louisville is targeting for the job, along with Richard Pitino, are Indiana State's Josh Shertz, College of Charleston's Pat Kelsey and Seton Hall's Shaheen Holloway.

The Journal has reached out to Richard Pitino for comment, but has not heard back.

Richard Pitino has said repeatedly he loves the UNM Lobo fan base and has no intention of leaving for another Minnesota situation — meaning a job in a power conference that can't compete for championships within the league.

As an assistant at Louisville, which was then in the Big East but is now in the ACC, Richard Pitino was a part of championship-level teams. The program is considered one of the more well-resourced in its conference.

Richard Pitino's three-year record at UNM is 61-41 (23-30 in Mountain West play). In 2021, he took over a team that went 6-16 and finished last in the league with a final NET ranking of 303. This season, the Lobos were 26-10 overall and 10-8 in the Mountain West and became the first team to win the league tournament with four wins in four days, earning the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. UNM had a NET ranking of 22 entering the NCAA Tournament, where it was an 11 seed and lost Friday to No. 6 Clemson.

One year ago, Richard Pitino received a new contract at UNM that pays him on average $1.2 million a year over five years, through the 2028 season. He earned $1.1 million this season plus $10,000 for making the NCAA Tournament.

Payne was reportedly being paid more than $3 million per season at Louisville.

If Pitino leaves for another job before March 31, he would owe UNM $1.1 million.

If he leaves after March 31, that drops to $750,000 during the 2024-25 season. It would drop to $500,000 in the 2025-26 season.