For Craig Snow, it’s all about opportunity.
And in the New Mexico Highlands University men’s basketball team, that’s what the former University of New Mexico Lobos assistant coach sees.
The 35-year-old on Thursday accepted an offer to coach the Cowboys next season, taking over the Division II northern New Mexico program coming off an 11-15 season that culminated in the April resignation of former coach Joe Harge, blasting a lack of support from the administration on his way out the door.
“I think all opportunities are what you make of it,” Snow told the Journal on Thursday. “And I’m really excited about this opportunity. I think we can do some real good things in what I think is an outstanding conference (the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference).”
Highlands on Thursday confirmed Snow’s hiring, along with the hiring of new women’s coach Brianna Finch, but did not release specific details on either hiring.
“I am really pleased and excited Brianna and Craig have decided to join our athletic staff as our new basketball coaches,” NMHU Athletic Director Jeff Falkner said. “They both have the right priorities and are not only great coaches, but also great people.
“The future of Highlands’ basketball looks bright.”
Snow said his contract will be a year-by-year setup, and while not confirming the salary agreement, he did acknowledge he is taking a pay cut. But, again, he said the opportunity he sees in the program outweighs that.
He will be joined in Las Vegas, N.M., by wife Jessica, daughter Adelynn and son Beckett.
Current UNM video administrator Brandon Mason, a former New Mexico State University player, is expected to join him as an assistant coach.
Snow leaves behind a spot as the third assistant on a UNM coaching staff he was a part of the past three seasons — video administrator (2011-12), director of basketball operations (2012-13), third assistant (2013-14). He was hired by former UNM coach Steve Alford after Snow had served as athletic director and boys basketball coach at Bosque School. Snow played in college at the University of Evansville for current Saint Louis coach Jim Crews.
“It wasn’t easy to leave New Mexico,” Snow said. “I feel like the last there years have been a blessing working for and learning from Steve and Craig (Neal, current UNM head coach).”
Snow will be in Las Vegas this weekend to get a firm grasp on the roster he will have to work with. He anticipates he may have to fill as many as “eight or nine” roster spots before the fall semester begins. In his time at UNM, Snow formed strong recruiting ties in Arizona, New Mexico and abroad, meaning NMHU could have an international presence in the future.
“We have to build a program,” Snow said. “We have to establish what it is a New Mexico Highlands player looks like, what he represents — on and off the court.”
At least on the court, Snow said that while he may press a little more than Lobo fans have seen in recent years, you can expect many of the same offensive and defensive principles Alford and Neal have incorporated into the UNM program in recent years.
Neal, through a prepared statement posted on the UNM athletics website, wished Snow the best.
“It’s bittersweet to lose Coach Snow because he’s been such a big part of our program,” Neal said. “However, this is a great opportunity for him to be a head coach of his own program, and I am very excited for him.”
Neal has not commented on any of the openings on his staff, including Snow’s, the expected departure of Mason or the June departure of strength and conditioning coach Diego Baca.