Lobo head coach Craig Neal received a two-year contract extension Monday afternoon. Neal's new contract runs through the 2019-20 season. Neal's original contract, which include $750,000 in base salary (plus various incentive bonuses) and compensation and a $1 million buyout should he leave for another school, remain the same.
"I look forward to leading the Lobos for several years and enjoying the Land of Enchantment," Neal said.
After six seasons as assistant head coach, Neal's rookie-year campaign resulted in a 27-7 record-tied for the 12th-most in NCAA history for first year head coaches. No UNM first-year head basketball coach had won as many games or taken his team to the NCAA Tournament prior to Neal.
Neal also led the Lobos to a 15-3 record in the Mountain West, including a third straight Mountain West tournament title, and a 2-2 record against Top 25 teams.
Neal's name was mentioned as a possible candidate for an opening with the University of South Florida. And even though an extension doesn't guarantee that Neal will stick around (UNM. Last year when Steve Alford left UNM for UCLA after receiving a raise and an extension), the extension can be viewed as a symbol of good faith from UNM. Dave Rice at UNLV and Leon Rice at Boise State each received contract extensions despite mediocre seasons and no NCAA Tournament appearances.
"We are excited about the direction of the program under Craig's leadership, and we are glad that he wants to be here at the University of New Mexico," said UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs.
Fans and players are probably pleased and relieved. I think that both would prefer that "Noodles" stay in Albuquerque.