EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The college basketball season is six weeks away and UTEP is already on the floor. NCAA rules permit teams to begin practicing 42 days out from their first game and the Miners wasted no time ushering in the Joe Golding era at UTEP.
Golding has been on the job since April and while the Miners have been working out through the spring and summer months, the first official day of practice for the 2021-22 season was on Tuesday, which allows the coaching staff to spend longer hours with their players.
“There’s so much to do and you just can’t get to it all. You go home and feel like you haven’t done anything,” said Golding. “That’s how it is right now. We had our first practice and it feels like there is so much for us to accomplish in the next month and a couple weeks before our first game.”
Despite Rodney Terry leaving his head coaching post at UTEP to take an assistant job at Texas, Golding was able to retain most of last year’s roster. The Miners return nine players and have six newcomers this season, and getting everyone on the same page is the main focus between now and tip-off on Tuesday, Nov. 9 against Western New Mexico at the Don Haskins Center.
“You’re looking at a team last year that was a gap defensive team and now we’re trying to be a pressure defensive team,” said Golding. “They ran a lot of four-out and one-in. There was a lot of standing around, throw it into Bryson [Williams] — which wasn’t a bad idea because Bryson was a pretty good player — but now we are running things where the ball moves. We have a lot more cuts and a lot more action.”
UTEP’s practices are full of action. The intensity from Golding is constant and the Miners match it.
“Practice translates to the game,” said UTEP freshman forward Jamari Sibley. “How we play here [at practice], how hard we go in here is how we are going to play in a game. It’s going to be the same.”
The Miners will play a home-and-home series against New Mexico State, non-conference games at Kansas and New Mexico, in addition to the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational. Conference-USA play begins Dec. 30.
“It’s a great group of guys,” said UTEP junior guard Jamal Bieniemy. “They’re ready to get after it, I’m ready to get after it and we know what we are capable of doing. We just want to go out and show it by playing hard every night.”
UTEP hasn’t made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2010. They went 12-12 last season with a lot of the same players who will be expected to contribute again this season, but in a much bigger way. That’s because Golding believes this team is built to win early.
“Everyone always tells me you can’t win in year one. You have too much going on, too many distractions with a new team and it’s so hard to win year one,” said Golding. “But I don’t believe in that. That’s not fair to these guys. These guys want to win right now and we’re going to do our best to give these guys the best shot to win. We’re going to get after it everyday and get better.”
Golding is currently undefeated at UTEP, at least until November, but the honeymoon phase is over. He has made it clear that he was brought here to win, and win now.