As Lobos former head coach Steve Alford heads west, all of the speculation is who will fill his cherry sport coat next season? UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs named Lobos Associate Head Coach Craig Neal, Interim Head Coach…for now.
Although Coach Neal has no head coaching experience at the collegiate level, you have to look at what he’s done for the program as a whole. Neal is a part of a staff that won 4 regular season titles, and 2 mountain west tournament titles running the offensive side of the ball. In the past 5 seasons, the Lobos offense finished in the top 3 in scoring offense.
As the defense-savvy Alford has departed, it’s critical for Neal to stick around for recruiting and the development of talent the Lobos have returning for another run to a possible Sweet 16 berth. Coach Alford continuously endorsed Neal (age 49) as being ready for a head coaching position, while current players Cameron Bairstow & Alex Kirk voiced their consideration to play under Neal.
It’s a no-brainer considering what he’s done for the program as an assistant as well as associate head coach having all 5 starters returning as well as a recruiting class that Neal can convince to stay, may prove to be an easy segue into his first season as a Head Coach. Sometimes you just need someone to take a chance, maybe this is Neal’s shot he’s been waiting for.