Lewis: Tim Floyd happy with things in El Paso

NEW ORLEANS — Tim Floyd was back in comfortable surroundings Wednesday morning.

Although his Texas-El Paso Miners were playing their Conference USA opener at Tulane Wednesday night, Floyd chose to have his team go thought its shootaround at Lakefront Arena where the banners above commemorate the two NCAA and three NIT appearances UNO made during Floyd’s six seasons (1989-94) there.

Probably if he’d so chosen, Floyd could have utilized the New Orleans Arena where the Hornets went 41-41 and made the playoffs during Floyd’s lone season (2003-04) at the team’s head coach.

“The most fun I ever had coaching was at UNO,” Floyd said. “I was just 35 and trying to build something, which we were able to do.

“And then to make the playoffs even thought Baron Davis missed 20 games and Jamal Mashburn 60 and take the Heat to seven games, that was a good feeling of accomplishment, too. New Orleans is a special place for me.”

That’s why Floyd is happy about recent developments with both programs — UNO deciding to remain in Division I and the Hornets’ ownership stabilizing under Tom Benson.

“The leadership at UNO has chosen to put the school back where it belongs,” he said. “The facilities, the size of the city the history of success here dictate all of that.

“And I’m so excited that the NBA and Mr. Benson have made the commitment to the city and the fans. I truly feel that the team is only a couple of lottery picks away from really being a contender.”

But while Floyd and wife Beverly maintain a lake home near Poplarville, Miss., his heart is in his true home city — El Paso.

It’s where he spent the first nine years of his life where his father, Lee, was an assistant coach at UTEP.

It’s where he began his coaching career, spending eight years as an assistant to Basketball Hall of Famer Don Haskins, during which time he and wife Beverly’s daughter, Shannon was born.

And it may just be that be Floyd’s final coaching stop, although he well knows that nothing is permanent in the profession.

“I’ve always approached every job as the last one I’ll have,” said Floyd, who’s in his third season at UTEP. “That’s the only way you can do it properly.”

In the pipeline is fall signee Isaac Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 swingman rated the No. 16 overall prospect in the country by Rivals and brother of former first-round pick Jordan Hamilton, now with Denver.

The Miners also signed a Top 150 forward in McKenzie Michel and have a 7-1 transfer who will be eligible next year.

“I feel like the luckiest guy in the world,” Floyd said. “To have had the opportunities I’ve had — coaching the Chicago Bulls, two high majors (Iowa State and Southern California) and then to have see how things are playing out at UTEP.

“You get into this business and you have no idea where it’s going to lead. When I look back at my career, I’m thrilled.”