They met at the Las Cruces Cattle Baron.
It must have gone well.
Not only did that 2007 dinner interview land Paul Weir, then a 27-year-old aspiring coach, a job on the staff of newly hired New Mexico State men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies, but the two teamed up (nine seasons with Menzies as head coach before Weir took over for one) overseeing a prolific decade of Aggies basketball that including averaging 23 wins per year and six NCAA Tournament appearances.
“When he first got the New Mexico State job,” Weir, now the f University of New Mexico head coach, recalls, “Marvin was extremely excited and energetic, just like he is now. Reggie (Theus) had just been there. (Former NMSU President) Mike Martin was there. They were pouring a lot of money into athletics. … It was a good time there. It was a lot of fun.”
Since that initial dinner meeting/interview on Telshor Boulevard, Menzies, now head coach at UNLV, has been instrumental in Weir’s development, both in what Weir learned directly and in the freedom Menzies gave him to grow.
“I don’t even know his support staff title when I first hired him,” Menzies said. “But I know he moved along because of his work ethic and his commitment to the program. He would come up with great ideas. He was creative. He was enthusiastic. He was passionate. He was loyal. And he’s good at what he does.
“He’s a lifelong learner. He’s got, like, 18 degrees and he’s working on a doctorate. So, he’ll quote everybody and he actually read the material. I know people give him a hard time sometimes because he’ll quote somebody, but he probably actually read the whole book when he gave you that quote. He didn’t look up QuotesOfTheDay.com. That’s just how he’s wired. And he’s one of my favorite people.”
The truth is, it’s possible neither is in his current position without what each did for the other over the past decade.
“Part of the reason I’m so indebted to Marvin is because of the latitude he gave me as an assistant coach — probably greater than any other coach in the country,” Weir said. “He gave me a lot of opportunity to grow ,and it made me so much more ready to be a head coach than maybe a lot of other first time coaches. …
“I’ll be indebted to him and his wife Tammy for a long time. I’ll probably never be able to repay what they did for me.”
But now, the two are no longer colleagues. They are coaching rivals leading a pair of historic NMSU foes into the 2017-18 season — Menzies in his second season as head coach of NMSU’s former Big West rival, and Weir in his debut season with the Lobos.
They haven’t spent much time thinking about the two times this season their teams will square off (Jan. 17 in Las Vegas, Nev., and Feb. 25 in the Pit).
“I don’t really look at it in that vein,” Menzies said. “It’s more about just happiness for Paul. This is, like, one of my guys. You’ve got to understand, we were in the trenches together for nine years. For him to be able to elevate his career and become a head coach at New Mexico State for the one season and then transition that into a better conference and a better job for him, I’m excited for him. It’s a great deal.”
But that excitement also comes with pressure — not only for both to succeed for their current programs, but for a Mountain West Conference desperate to avoid being permanently branded as a one-NCAA Tournament bid league.
“It’s our responsibility at New Mexico to hopefully be one of the pillars of this basketball conference,” Weir said. “That’s nothing demeaning to anyone else in this conference. We all want our programs to do well. But I think UNLV and San Diego State and New Mexico have traditionally been very strong programs in this league.”
Both face uphill climbs.
A year ago, Menzies, like Weir now, inherited a gutted roster and had to recruit throughout the summer just to get enough bodies to practice.
The result? UNLV was last place, 11th seed in its home arena in last March’s MWC Tournament.
Weir’s Lobos were picked ninth in the preseason media poll last month, ahead only Air Force and San Jose State, two teams with a combined three winning seasons in the past decade.
Still, neither coach could be happier for the other.
“I think we both consider ourselves really lucky,” Weir said. “We would talk a lot last year during the season, and no matter what was going on, at the end, I would say, ‘But coach, you’re the head coach at UNLV.’ And now, he just says, ‘But Paul, you’re the coach at UNM.’
“I want nothing more than for him to turn that program around, and I think he wants the same for me.”