ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After four seasons as head coach of the University of New Mexico Men’s Basketball Team, Craig Neal was fired late Friday night. “Noodles” held a career record of 76-52, and only showed strong promise after being hired after Steve Alford left the program.
UNM Athletics sent out a letter on the Neal situation that read, in part:
The University of New Mexico is grateful for the service and dedication that Coach Neal gave to Lobo basketball,” said Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs. “He led us to a Mountain West Tournament championship as head coach and his guidance and leadership of student-athletes off the court should be highlighted. Lobo Basketball set records for GPA, graduating players, and Coach Neal ran a program that the community can be proud of. He’s a good man and a winning coach, but the time has come to move Lobo Basketball in a new direction. We will begin a search for a new coach immediately and look forward to building on the winning tradition of Lobo Basketball.”
“With the challenges facing UNM, every decision we make must reflect the best interests of the UNM community, and in this particular case, the men’s basketball program, as well as student-athletes and Lobo fans,” said Acting President Chaouki Abdallah. “The decision made late tonight comes after lengthy consideration in light of recent developments that cannot be ignored. We understand the frustration being voiced by Lobo fans and hope they will see us through this time of transition and continue to support UNM athletics.”
The outcry of Lobo Fans across the state of New Mexico could not go unnoticed. Another lack luster season in 2016 led to an early exit in the Mountain West Tournament. Fans demanded that Neal be fired, even starting a Go Fund Me account to help with the $1 million buy out.
“I just didn’t like his attitude towards his players. He was always fired up and getting mad and obviously that wasn’t working for his players. His players didn’t like playing for him, you know I just think we need to start from scratch,” said Lobo fan, Joe Falcone.
“It starts and ends with the fans. The fans have spoken, they were unhappy and they have stopped supporting the program. So, I think this was a fan driven decision,” said former UNM basketball player, George Scott.
The buyout seemed out of reach with the recent budget problems at the University of New Mexico, but the fans were heard. The search for a new head coach is now on. For the time being, Assistant Head Coach Alan Huss has taken over as interim coach.
To find out more about the coaches in discussion for the head job, click here.