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Paul Weir looks to take New Mexico basketball back to Mountain West contention

Can new UNM head Coach lead the Lobos to a successful 2017-2018?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Baylor vs New Mexico State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The New Mexico Lobos basketball program have made several changes this offseason, one including the hire of former New Mexico State head coach Paul Weir. The Lobos signed Weir to a six year deal worth $4.4 million and a base salary of $300,000 that will increase annually. This deal would have to be considered a win-win for both parties due to this being the cheapest coach the Lobos have had in many years, and the deal being worth much more than what Weir was making with the Aggies.

Weir was an assistant at NMSU from 2007-2016, then became the head coach for the 2016-2017 season. Weir took the Aggies to a 28-6 record with 20 wins coming consecutively and eventually went on to win the WAC tournament to receive an automatic bid to the big dance.

The Aggies showed great promise in the NCAA tournament when they faced off against Baylor in the first round. New Mexico State, the 14 seed, was able keep up with the three-seeded Bears until the experience factor of Baylor took over in the second half.

With the departure of former Lobo coach Craig Neal, Lobos fans are excited for change. The Lobos have not won a conference title since 2014 and some would argue that the Lobos won that championship due to the team previously built by Steve Alford. Weir should bring back some of the smash mouth defensive rounded basketball that the Lobos have lacked the past few seasons.

“I feel like we’ve added a lot of speed and I feel like we added depth at guard,” Weir said joining ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team in Albuquerque. “I think losing all the production that we did might have lowered expectations ...

“I've already seen where we have been picked in the conference and the amount of doubters we are going to have out there, and it’s our job to prove those people wrong.”

The Lobos lost Elijah Brown to Oregon this past offseason along with Jalen Harris and Xavier Adams. The production by those three, in particular Brown, will be tough to replace.

Weir has plans of emphasizing conditioning this offseason for the Lobos. For a team that lost six games leading in the fourth quarter with three minutes left, not letting off the gas peddle could put the Lobos back into tournament contention.

“I think being in better condition allows you to make free throws down the stretch, it eliminates mental errors down the stretch, and if you are just a little bit more in shape than your opponent, you have just given yourself greater efficiency in all those different areas.”

Weir also touched on the bonding factor that intense conditioning could bring to a team.

“...Training that way and that hard really fosters a team mentality and a team environment, there is nothing that will bring me and my teammate together more than just training really hard.”

Expect a different style of play for Lobos basketball in the future, changing the Lobos style will be something Weir plans to work on in the long run.

“...Not anything derogatory to the previous system,” Weir said. “... I just look at it a little bit differently.”

Only time will tell if the Lobo faithful will be pleased with the hire of Weir. Weir posses a team first mentality and will look at every individual player as a key contributor to the team. The Lobos still have a few scholarships to hand out this offseason and each will be looked at very carefully to benefit them as a whole.

Expect Weir to bring a similar style to UNM as he did at New Mexico State. Weir loves smart ball, taking high percentage shots and having a ton of ball movement will be focuses for the Lobos. A change will not happen overnight, but with the amount of work Weir plans to do during the summer, the Lobos could very well be back on the rise.