UTEP has named Phil Johnson interim men's basketball head coach after Tim Floyd announced his retirement Monday night.
Johnson had been an assistant under Floyd at UTEP since the 2010-11 season. However, he also previously worked as a member of Floyd's staff at the University of New Orleans (1991-93), with the Chicago Bulls (1999-02), and at USC (2005-09).
"[Tim Floyd] has had an unbelievable career - you know, a career that most coaches, 99-percent of coaches, would love to have had," said Johnson. "So, being around him for that long and just seeing how he's done things and how he's treated people, particularly me, I'm forever indebted to Coach."
Floyd announced his decision to call it a career at a post game news conference following UTEP's home loss to Lamar Monday night. The team fell to 1-5 with the loss.
Floyd cited health issues as one of the main reasons he decided to step down.
Johnson said he was aware of those issues, which include high blood pressure. Yet, he was still surprised when Floyd announced his retirement. Johnson, a former head coach at San Jose State for four seasons, said he and the Miners would still welcome Floyd back if he had a change of heart.
"You know, I've always encouraged coaches to come back and coach. If he goes through one of those moments, then come back and coach. Because that's who he is. That's what he does," he said.
Johnson added he is not focused on anything beyond this season and this team, saying he didn't want to discuss the subject of possibly becoming the team's permanent head coach down the line.
UTEP now must turn its attention to a rematch against New Mexico State on Thursday night at home. The Aggies defeated UTEP 72-63 on Saturday, just two days before Floyd stepped down.
But the players said Tuesday they were still reeling from the loss of their head coach.
"It's like losing a family member, you know, especially since you've been with him since your freshman year," said forward Paul Thomas. "And he's been with you through the ups and downs of a season and the types of things like that. So, yeah, it's a hurtful loss."
Guard Omega Harris echoed that sentiment, saying he had a hard time accepting Floyd's decision initially.
"At first I just got mad, and I was like, 'Why?' I didn't know what was really going on," said Harris. "And then after he finally first walked out of the locker room, that's when it really hit me, and I broke down."