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New Mexico keeps stability by promoting Craig Neal

Craig Neal was appropriately named the head basketball coach for New Mexico. His hire kept current players and recruits from abandoning the program.

USA TODAY -- Kyle Terada

New Mexico Lobos athletic director Paul Krebs made the right choice in stripping away the interim tag of Craig Neal, and making him the head coach of the Lobos basketball program. Had Krebs gone with anyone else then his basketball program would have taken a major hit.

Seven-foot center Alex Kirk went as far as to say if Neal is not the head coach then he would be on the next plane to UCLA to continue playing with Steve Alford. Kirk would be able to graduate in August and not even have to sit out a year.

Keeping Neal as the head coach could also play a key factor in persuading Tony Snell to possible withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to school. If Snell does return it would mean that the Lobos have all five starters from the 2012-13 season.

Neal is also in charge of recruiting and keeping him as the head coach will help keep the players interested in playing for New Mexico keep with that thought. The Lobos had to move fast since April 11 marks the dates that coaches can can get back on the road recruiting before the April 17 signing period. Having just an interim coach during that time would have been a poor move by the athletic department.

During the few days that Neal was just the interm coach, he was tasked with keeping the program stable:

"Everybody is solid right now," Neal said Sunday night when asked about the status of all the recruiting targets of the Lobos. "We're still recruiting the same kids we recruited and have a few new ones on our radar because of need, but we're still doing the same thing right now we've always done."

Neal suddenly has two scholarships open for the 2013 class as Bryce Alford is following his dad to UCLA, and Demetrius Walker is no longer on the team.

The 2014 class is also very important as Xavier Adams, a 6-foot-5-inch guard/forward and a three-star prospect from Alvarado, Texas who averaged 25.7 points and 13.6 rebounds a game, said he would de-commit if Neal was not the head coach. So, as of now it looks like Adams is going to stick to being a Lobo.

Adams was a lot like other recruits who wanted to know who would be the coach, and that if Neal was to be the head coach they would continue to have interest in heading to New Mexico.

With Neal as the head coach there is likely to be no defections, and the only player that needs to have convincing is Snell who has an eye toward the NBA.