ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was a long day, and one full of twists and turns for New Mexico men’s basketball associate head coach Craig Neal. But late on Tuesday night, Neal told the Journal he did not get the head coaching job at Colorado State.
“I went through the process, and I was excited about the opportunity,” Neal said following Tuesday night’s annual Lobo team banquet. “They told me they were going a different direction. I don’t know what direction that is, but it’s all good. I get to stay here now and try to keep winning and have fun.
“I’m still a Lobo, so it’s all good.”
Multiple sources told the Journal that former Oregon coach Ernie Kent will be named the CSU coach today or Thursday.
Neal flew to Denver on Tuesday for a second interview for the CSU opening, then returned to Albuquerque in time for the 6 p.m. pre-banquet gathering at Embassy Suites. Colorado State officials flew to Albuquerque on Friday to interview Neal the first time.
By early afternoon Tuesday, the website examiner.com posted a report that Neal had the job. At 5 p.m. the website confirmed its report, saying a source said “It’s a done deal.”
A number of Internet rumors followed that Neal had the job.
Prior to the banquet, however, Neal told the Journal that while he felt “really good about my chances,” that he would not know a decision until 9 p.m. Tuesday. A few minutes after 9 p.m., Neal received a phone call while at the banquet.
“I was (among the finalists) and had a chance,” Neal said. “You always want to be a head coach someday, but it just didn’t work out. I wish them well. I thought the process was really good.
“It’s a credit to our program and what Steve (Alford) has done here that we have a chance to get other jobs. It’s one of those things that just didn’t work out, so I’ll just keep working on making our teams better.”
Neal said he was told CSU planned to announce its new coach at a news conference on Thursday.
New Mexico State men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies, meanwhile, agreed to a contract extension with the school Monday night and pulled out of the running for the vacancy at Colorado State. Terms of the new deal are a work in progress, NMSU said.
In a statement Tuesday night, NMSU athletic director Dr. McKinley Boston said: “Based on the continued success of our program and the academic success of our student-athletes, I will start the process of sitting down with coach Menzies to review his current contract.”
After interviewing Neal in Albuquerque, CSU officials flew to Las Cruces on Friday to interview Menzies. But the coach was not one of the candidates who met with CSU officials Tuesday in Denver.
Multiple sources told the Journal that Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy and St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap also flew to Denver on Tuesday to have follow-up interviews with CSU officials.