Posted at: 04/01/2013 12:01 AM
Updated at: 04/01/2013 12:16 AM
By: J.P. Murrieta, KOB Eyewitness Sports 4
I was surprised when Steve Alford announced he was leaving for UCLA. I would be even more surprised if UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs didn't name Craig Neal the next UNM head coach.
I don't see any candidate out there that would make more sense for the program right now.
Neal was promoted to interim head coach to help keep the ship afloat while the search is underway. Neal was with the Lobos for the last six years and played a big role in UNM's success.
"Coach Neal is ready," said Steve Alford. "He's got an incredible basketball mind. Of all the people I've ever worked with or been around, nobody knows the game of basketball more than he does and he knows our team. He knows the climate and knows the culture of UNM. He knows what it's like to walk down the ramp at the Pit and he knows what it's like to organize a basketball team in a lot of different ways. I would highly endorse him because I think he's ready. I think the fans would respond to him and I think the boosters would respond to him."
Alex Kirk has said thee's a good chance of the team staying intact if Neal were named the head coach. The Lobos return all five starters and will be a pre-season top 25 team this year. Don't you want to keep the group together?
Kansas State had Bob Huggins leave them high and dry for West Virginia. The school replaced Huggins with his assistant Frank Martin and Martin took Kansas State deeper than Huggins. My point being, sometimes there's a lot to be said for continuity and familiarity.
Ever heard of a guy named Mark Few at Gonzaga? He went from associate head coach to Dan Monson's replacement and he had the Zags as a #1 team this year.
Tom Izzo went from associate head coach at Michigan State to Jud Heathcote's replacement and he's one of the top head coaches in college basketball.
Those are just three examples of how elevating an associate head coach can turn out to be successful.
Despite just keeping Neal because he already has keys to the place, the guy can coach. Have you seen the Lobos during any timeout during a game? He's as involved as any assistant I've seen.
Krebs did not have a timetable for naming a new head coach, but I would guess it's sooner rather than later. In 10 days the coaching staff can go back out and make in person recruiting visits. That's going to be difficult to do if you don't have a permanent head coach in place. If Neal isn't named the permanent man in charge, he will be Alford's assistant/associate head coach at UCLA.
Krebs doesn't have to go far to find the next head coach of UNM. He's already in the office.