Somewhat quietly, an interesting coaching job has opened up: UTEP.
The coach wasn’t fired; rather, Rodney Terry opted to join Chris Beard’s staff at Texas.
UTEP has a great tradition of course. Don Haskins became head coach in 1961 and stayed until 1999. In just his fifth year, UTEP - then called Texas Western - won the national championship, with an all Black starting five defeating an all-white Kentucky team coached by Adolph Rupp, who was (and remains) widely perceived as a racist.
Less well remembered was Nate Archibald, who turned up the year after and had a brilliant college and pro career. That he is less well remembered says a lot about the impact of the ‘66 team.
El Paso native Nolan Richardson was one of Haskins’ earliest recruits, signing in 1961. He has spoken at length about his love for his hometown and El Paso has a lot going for it.
In Haskins’ day it was part of the old Southwest basketball culture which largely meant running basketball and the chance to recruit many Black players that white schools, particularly in the south, were not willing to recruit.
UTEP and Houston were the main beneficiaries but other schools had their day in the sun, including Drake, New Mexico and New Mexico State.
UTEP has been up and down in recent decades and has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2010. It hasn’t won a tournament game since Christian Laettner was a Duke senior in 1992.
Still, like New Mexico it’s a great job for the right guy. The fans are loyal and passionate and people will support the Miners.
We have no idea who the Miners will ultimately hire but whoever it is, we hope he embraces everything about the place and program. College basketball is richer with a great UTEP program.