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UNM’s Weir takes time to coach Canada

All Paul Weir needed was a little more on his plate.

The 37-year-old coach of the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team has been busy hiring a staff, recruiting to a roster that has four scholarship openings, meeting fans, boosters and coworkers, overseeing the past two weeks of youth and team camps with record-setting numbers, painting the team’s offices, juggling text messages, trying to sell his house in Las Cruces, finding a new one in Albuquerque, working on his doctoral dissertation and being a husband and dad.

Apparently he wanted something to do with all that spare time.

So he accepted a position last month as the assistant coach on the Canadian Junior National team — a role that had him in his native Toronto for three days last week for tryouts and practices. It will take him to France on Wednesday for three tune-up games and then off to Cairo on July 1-9 for the FIBA Under-19 World Championship games.

“Is it ideal for me right at this moment? Probably not,” Weir told the Journal in a rare quiet moment away from the several thousand players, coaches and parents who have been in and out of the Pit this week for the Lobo team camps.

“But I think the opportunity is a lot bigger than that, and I figured it was something I just really shouldn’t turn down.”

Weir isn’t naive to the importance of what needs to be done with Lobo basketball. The roster, as of Saturday afternoon, still had four open scholarships and only seven players are enrolled in classes (two more will join later this summer).

But Weir is confident and comfortable enough to delegate to his staff — assistants Chris Harriman, Marc Hsu and Jeremy Robinson as well as director of operations Ryan Berryman.

“I feel really good about our staff in place and their ability to execute our summer program,” Weir said earlier in the month.

Still, taking the job when offered in late April by Jay Triano, coach of Canada’s men’s national team, and Roy Rana, coach of the junior national team, wasn’t easy.

“I initially told them I’d need a lot of time to think about it and told them I really didn’t know if I could do it,” said Weir. “I just really didn’t want to sell this (UNM job) short.”

But, the recruiting pitch turned out to be one Weir couldn’t resist.

Competing against and learning from some of the top coaches around the world — Team USA’s staff, for instance, includes Kentucky’s John Calipari, Colorado’s Tad Boyle, Wake Forrest’s Danny Manning and other Division I coaches — got the gears turning in Weir’s mind about things he can steal and implement for the Lobos.

“As time went on, I thought, you know what? It probably is a real good opportunity,” Weir said. “There’s always a reason why you can’t do something like this.”

Sure, growth as a young coach is a part of the equation. But participation in international basketball by college coaches has long been considered one of the best ways to lay the groundwork for future recruiting.

“Could that happen? Potentially,” Weir said when asked if it would help in recruiting. “I’m not really going into that with that direct objective. I’m going into it with a much broader perspective of the benefits of the experience for me. If things like that matriculate out of it, great. But I’m not going into it saying I’m doing it for recruiting. Whatever happens to come of it, happens to come of it.”

Canada’s Junior National Team will play three exhibition games in France starting later this week against France, Lithuania and Spain and opens play at the World Championship in Egypt on July 1. Canada is in Group C along with Mali, Spain and Japan.

But, while he’s committed to the long term task at hand in Albuquerque with the Lobos, he’s also excited and anxious about what the next few weeks will bring.

“Any time you can do something for your country, it’s an honor,” Weir said. “To help in some way, to be a part of it in some way, is something I take very seriously and I’ll work hard at it.”