March 31, 2017. Another day in the history books for the UNM basketball program. Head Coach Craig Neal was relieved of his duties as the head honcho after Neal and the athletic department could not come to a consensus on contract details, as first reported by the LoboLair, later confirmed by news stations and reporters. This news comes after three weeks ago when AD Paul Krebs said he would “end speculation…” and let Lobo fans know that Coach Neal would be returning next season.
“The University of New Mexico is grateful for the service and dedication that Coach Neal gave to Lobo Basketball,” Krebs said in a statement released moments after the news broke. “He’s a good man and a
winning coach, but the time has come to move Lobo Basketball in a new direction.”
In Neal’s first season as the head coach, he went 27-7 on the season, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. After that, the Lobos could not win over 17 games the following three seasons. And they posted three straight one and done-s in the Mountain West Conference tournament, including this year’s loss to Fresno State in the first round.
It all seemed to start falling downhill after Elijah Brown announced his intent to transfer, later followed by Anthony Mathis, Sam Logwood, Holt Shelley, and Jalen Harris. Also, Adam Cumber no longer wants to play and is hopeful to get an internship within the program, according to JP Murrieta of KOB Sports. Those players can decide to go back to the program, but the new coach would have to give the player their scholarship back.
Loyal Lobo basketball fan and La Cueva sophomore Ben Doughty had mixed emotions on the situation once he first heard the news. “Coach Neal did a good job at UNM. His athletes graduated and were successful on and off the basketball court,” he said. “However, I feel that it is the right decision to move forward with a new coach.”
Names like Tom Crean, former Indiana head coach, and Joe Dooley, former UNM assistant coach under Fran Fraschilla and current head coach at Florida Gulf Coast have been thrown out as possible candidates. JP Murrieta reported Dooley is the front-runner so far on the Henry T Show on 101.7 The Team. Assistant coach Alan Huss will currently serve as the interim head coach until a new coach is appointed.