Iuzzolino joining New Mexico staff

Mike Iuzzolino is heading west.

The former local basketball standout on Monday was named the director of basketball operations at the University of New Mexico under new Lobos coach Craig Neal.

“I think it’s the next step in continuing the process of getting to where I want to be at the college level,” Iuzzolino said. “It’s important to make changes in your life if you want to progress, and I think in the long run this is one that will be very beneficial to my coaching career.”

Neal and Iuzzolino were teammates with the Fort Wayne Fury of the Continental Basketball Association in 1993-94.

“I’m very happy to have Mike here,” Neal said. “I’ve known him for a long time, and I admired him as a player. He has always been a hard worker and will be a great asset to our program. We are fortunate to have someone of his caliber.”

The two re-connected at this year’s Final Four after Iuzzolino, 45, spent one season as the director of basketball operations at Canisius.

“It was kind of a coincidence,” he said. “He [Neal] and I bumped into each other, and he said he had an ops [basketball operations] job open and asked if I was interested. That got the ball rolling.”

New Mexico went 29-6 last year, won the Mountain West Conference and advanced to the program’s 14th NCAA Tournament berth. Shortly after the season, coach Steve Alford left the Lobos for UCLA, prompting the promotion of Neal, who previously served as the program’s associate head coach.

UNM was ranked 17th in last year’s final Associated Press poll, and has ranked New Mexico in its top 20 entering the 2013 season.

“Playing with Craig, I know the type of competitor he is, and I have a lot of faith that he’s going to continue the tradition they have here,” Iuzzolino said. “I’m very, very excited to be part of a program like this.”

Iuzzolino said he and his wife, Dana, and two children are in the process of relocating to Albuquerque.

“I’m very fortunate my wife is very supportive in this process because it’s a major change,” he said.

Prior to coaching at Canisius, Iuzzolino spent three seasons as associate head coach at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. He began his coaching career assisting women’s programs at Duquesne and George Mason.

The Canisius job, working under Jim Baron, his college coach at St. Francis, was Iuzzolino’s first at the Division I men’s level. The Griffs went from a 5-25 record to 20 wins in Baron’s first year in Buffalo.

“I’m so thankful and humble that coach Baron gave me an opportunity to get to the Division I level,” Iuzzolino said.

“I think this is a great opportunity for Mike,” Baron, who also has had successful stints at St. Francis, St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island, said. “Mike’s the best. He did a fantastic job for me and was real instrumental in our success. He has a lot of class and charisma, and I think he’s on his way.”

At New Mexico, Iuzzolino will handle many of the day-to-day operations of the basketball staff, including all facets of team travel. He will also oversee the team’s academics and handle UNM’s basketball camps.

After transferring from Penn State to St. Francis in 1988, Iuzzolino was named the 1991 Northeast Conference Player of the Year and led the Red Flash to the school’s only NCAA Men’s Tournament berth. He is a two-time CoSIDA first team Academic All-American and the 1991 CoSIDA All-Academic Player of the Year.

He was drafted in the second round (35th overall) by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1991 NBA Draft. He ended up playing two seasons for Dallas, where he averaged 9.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game in 122 career contests.

He played two years in the CBA before traveling overseas to play in the premier league in Italy for six seasons. He closed out his professional career in Greece and Spain.