Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

‘Coach’ Moccia to lead Panamaniacs into TBT

Former NMSU Aggie player Brandon Mason, second from left, presents NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia with a jersey during the June 2016 Battle of the Rio Grande alumni all-star game held in the pit. (Photo courtesy of Mario Moccia)

Shortly after the successful June 2016 Battle of the Rio Grande UNM/NMSU alumni basketball game Brandon Mason helped organize in the Pit, the former Aggies player and Lobos assistant coach had an idea.

That in itself wasn’t anything new. Mason always seems to have an idea about some project down the road.

Not only was Mason already locked in on figuring out a way to one day put together a Lobos alumni team to compete in the annual $1 million winner-take-all TBT (The Basketball Tournament), which he saw through and debuted “The Enchantment” team in last year’s TBT, but he also told people he would one day do the same for the Aggies.

And when he told NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia his idea, Moccia politely agreed it would be great if he could do that.

But there was more.

“We were at this after-game reception that year and he says, ‘What do you think about being the head coach? It would be great exposure,’” Moccia recalls Mason telling him. “I said, ‘Yeah. surah No problem.’ Well, I had no idea that it would get this far.”

Five years later, Mason had successfully put together The Enchantment. And this year, he did the same with The Panamaniacs, a team of mostly former Aggie players.

And he knew he already had his coach.

“Yeah, I told him I would, so I am,” said Moccia, the former NMSU baseball player who has never coached basketball. “Of course, I never really thought about this being a thing that would be on TV.”

Getting Moccia on board as the head coach certainly helped Mason navigate some of the logistical hurdles or other barriers that might have come up with putting together a Las Cruces-based team of players now playing all over the world all while Mason had a job and lives in Albuquerque.

“But I really do think that when you’re New Mexico State, you have to be doing stuff like this, because we don’t have the benefit of being in a marketplace that has 750,000 or 800,000 (population) like UNM or UTEP, Moccia said. “Any positive publicity about basketball or the whole department, I just think it’s incumbent upon us to put as much of a spotlight on your programs when you’re given an opportunity.”

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Asked if it was safe to assume associate head coach Preston Laird, a former New Mexico State assistant, would be doing a lot of the X’s and O’s in Monday’s TBT game in the Pit, Moccia was quick to confirm.

“By a lot, I mean like 99.9% of it,” Moccia said. “We lead the TBT in assistant coaches and I’m going to need it.”

The Panamaniacs assistant coaches included Laird, former Aggie player and current Aggies assistant Billy Keys, former Aggie and current Las Cruces High School coach William Benjamin, longtime NMSU staffer and current Mayfield High School coach Keith Roberts, former Aggie Shawn Harrington, former Aggie staffer and current University of Missouri-Kansas City staffer Jon Tabor and former Aggie and current youth coach Mike Nanez.

MONDAY: TBT first-rounder, the Pit: The Enchantment vs. the Panamaniacs, 8 pm, 101.7 FM, ESPNU.

TICKETS: GoLobos.com/TBT

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