Posted at: 04/01/2013 7:32 PM
By: J.P. Murrieta, KOB Eyewitness Sports 4
UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs named Craig Neal the interim head coach of the UNM men's basketball team while he searches for a full-time replacement for Steve Alford. Time isn't something Krebs has a lot of right now.
April 11th is the first day of the open recruiting period. Neal will be getting ready to go out recruiting next week, but will he be wearing a cherry colored golf shirt or one with powder blue Bruin? Neal made it clear he wants the job at UNM. He feels like he's the right man to keep the continuity of the program. But he won't let the decision process drag on. If he's not the man Krebs wants, he will go out recruiting for Alford at UCLA.
"(The decision) has to be made pretty quick for me because I have to decide what I'm going to do with the UCLA job which I've been offered," Neal said on Monday. "It's a great job and a great position. Steve and I can continue what we've done here and it's an opportunity for me but this is definitely an opportunity for me and I want to be the head coach here (at UNM)."
I know Krebs well enough that he won't be held hostage by any timeline demand or public outcry by the fans or players but the reality is they are up against the clock in making a choice.
The Final Four starts this weekend. Atlanta will be a coaching convention with assistants who have resumes in hand looking for jobs. Whoever gets the UNM head coaching job, they will probably have to hire a staff. If Neal gets the interim tag removed he would likely have to replace 1-2 assistants who are rumored to be headed to UCLA. The Final Four would be a perfect place to show off your new head coach and give him a chance to hire some people.
Any coach would want their staff in place before next Thursday. It would be program suicide to start the recruiting period without a staff ready to knock on doors. I'm pretty sure Neal won't wait until next week to hear if he's the man UNM wants or not.
In the long term interest of the program, Krebs wants to exhaust all of his options. I don't blame him. I'm not surprised Krebs didn't name a replacement within a day of Alford's departure. It doesn't make business sense. You want to see all the potential candidates out there. But considering your lead candidate and fan favorite has another offer on the table, it shouldn't take long to hire him or rule him out.
My guess is we will know within the next 48-72 hours if the Lobos want Neal or if Krebs plans to look elsewhere and conduct interviews at the Final Four instead. With all the public support and open lobbying done by the players, a decision could come soon. In my opinion, if Neal isn't named the head coach before the end of the week then Neal isn't the guy they're looking for.