The New Mexico Lobos got their man when the promoted Craig Neal to be their new basketball coach to take over for the departed Steve Alford. There will be a press conference on Wednesday afternoon where Neal will take questions from the media.
Before that happened, Neal sent out a prepared statement on Tuesday about his promotion:
"I'm truly honored to be the head coach at the University of New Mexico," Neal said in a prepared release sent to media Tuesday night. "Over the past six years my family and I have been overwhelmed by the support we have received in this community. Coach Alford allowed me the opportunity to really make an impact on this program, and I'm excited to continue building on what we started six years ago."
Neal is truly ready to lead this nationally ranked program, and hopefully he can keep it that way. The next step is to get the Lobos to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, and that could happen as early as next season, since nearly the entire team is coming back. The one recruiting job he needs to do is convince Tony Snell to stick around one more year, and if that happens then all five starters are back.
New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs also talked about the hire:
"We are excited that Craig Neal will be our next basketball coach," said Krebs. "We did a tremendous amount of work and research in a very short time. Craig was a major part of a staff that has not only won championships but graduated student-athletes, raised our academics to record levels and poured a tremendous amount of energy into our community in the form of service projects. Craig probably had as much freedom with our program in making decisions as any associate head coach in the country, and his time working with coach Alford has prepared him fully for this task."
The timeframe that Krebs was under almost forced his hand in hiring Neal, but that is not a good thing since there was massive support to make Neal the head coach.
Neal has some recruiting duties to do for the 2013 class since he has no three scholarships open with both of Steve Alford's son's going to UCLA and there is also the dismissal of Demetrius Walker. One replacement could be Neal's son, Cullen, but he has already signed a letter of intent at St. Mary's. If he is to make the move to New Mexico it will likely meaning sitting out his first year, but that is not a big deal since he can use his redshirt season.
The younger Neal is a three-star point guard, 150th rated player in the nation, and the 34th best at his position, according to Rivals. There has been no decision on if he will make a move to New Mexico, but it would be a good get if he could.