New Mexico has hired assistant Craig Neal as head coach of the men’s basketball program to replace Steve Alford. Alford recently left the Lobos after accepting a head coaching position with UCLA this past week.
Neal, 49, worked under Alford for six seasons, and was a clear favorite to take over the program after his predecessor jumped ship for the Pac-12. He was an assistant for Alford while with Iowa as well, and will be a head coach for the first time in his career.
New Mexico nailed this choice for head coach, and both players and the current coaching staff support the decision. Alford was expected to be the coach of the future in Albuquerque after he signed a 10-year, $20 million contract last week, but the Bruins pay much better. By hiring Neal, New Mexico will be able to closely contain the coaching turnover and continue on their path to collegiate basketball greatness.
Neal has reportedly agreed to a five-year contract worth $750,000 each season. New Mexico will continue with a similar mindset on the floor at a fraction of the price they had agreed to pay Alford.
This hire doesn’t need to be dissected and critiqued because it simply makes sense for the Lobos. It has been one hell of a week for New Mexico players, coaches, and recruits, and by hiring Neal, the Lobos can move on without having to welcome in a new ideology.
John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in Los Angeles. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.