ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lobos fans already love the fiery, emotional ways of Craig Neal as the program’s new head men’s basketball coach.
Mountain West basketball fans will get their chance to decide soon enough, but two fashion statements he plans adopt from his predecessor may seal his fate.
While talking with Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday night after he learned he got the job, Neal got a call asking for his coat size — 44 long, by the way.
Wednesday, we all saw why when deputy athletic director Tim Cass slipped on a brand new cherry blazer on the Lobos new coach. Yes, he does plan to wear the not so eye pleasing coat for big games in the future.
I also asked him about his future net-around-the-neck plans, an increasingly despised trademark of Steve Alford in recent years whenever the Lobos won a Mountain West regular season or tournament championship. After the Lobos would celebrate by cutting down the nets, Alford would do postgame interviews with it draped around his neck.
Neal said he didn’t realize the rest of the league hated the gesture, then said he’ll gladly continue the Lobo coaching tradition if given the opportunity.
“I’ve got to win one first,” Neal said. “But, yeah. Once we get one, I’ll wear it around my neck.”
Asked if there could possibly be a UCLA-UNM home-and-home scheduling series down the road, Neal said, “I’ll ask him.”
He then said that may have to be something settled by a bet on the golf course this offseason with Alford.
Neal then announced that the coming season’s scheduled December road game with Valparaiso, a contractually obligated game after Valpo played in the Pit this past season, will be moved to the 2014-15 season.
UNM will instead play either Stanford or Washington in an ESPN game on Dec. 20 in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. Neal thanked Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew for being willing to move the 2013-14 game.
Boise State extends Rice
Boise State head basketball coach Leon Rice on Wednesday received a two-year contract extension keeping him with the Broncos through the 2017-18 season with a pay raise of $42,100 and then 3 percent annually thereafter.
Read more about Rice’s contract extension in THIS ARTICLE from the Idaho Statesman’s Dave Southorn.