The last thing Paul Weir wanted to do on Thursday was talk about some quotes from a Mountain West coaching peer from last October – long before a single game in the 2017-18 college basketball season had been played.
Then again, when Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy said the New Mexico Lobos’ new men’s basketball coach had just landed “the worst job in the country,” part of what the Rams coach referenced was having to deal with the annoyance of reporters.
So, here we are.
Eustachy, in his 27th season as a college basketball head coach, has his beaten-up Rams (10-12, 3-6 Mountain West) in Albuquerque for a showdown tonight in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit with the Lobos (10-11, 5-3 and tied for third in the league).
UNM was a program he once admired before changing his tune some after watching from afar how the Lobo community dealt with his friend, former Lobos head coach Craig Neal.
So, at the preseason Mountain West media conference in Las Vegas, Nev., when asked about the new coach at UNM, the league’s most refreshingly outspoken coach spoke his mind.
“I think he’s got the worst job in the country,” said Eustachy of Weir. “I just told him that. It doesn’t pay enough. If I got paid $5 million, I’d take all that crap that you get in Albuquerque, but he doesn’t make enough money. But that place is different, as you know. It’s a different beast.”
He also, in a backhanded sort of way, complimented Albuquerque for its passion for hoops, listing it in the same company as some of the sport’s elites.
“You know how that town works,” Eustachy said. “I think it’s great on one end. Name them? You’ve got Lexington, Kentucky, you’ve got Syracuse, New York, you’ve got Duke, and New Mexico is in that 10. … And the jobs you name that are going in that 10, those guys are making $8 million and Noodles was making ($950,000). To succeed there, with the expectations that come with it, it’s rare to survive that thing. You know that.
“… It’s neat that they’re that much into it, but there’s got to be something else besides basketball in Albuquerque, because it is a religion there.”
Weir, 38, who earned $625,000 in the first of a six-year deal, didn’t take offense then, or Thursday. He believes he knows what Eustachy, a coach he has admired for years, was saying.
“I don’t know coach Eustachy that well so I don’t know exactly why he said it – but I think he was probably trying to defend coaching and the fraternity of coaches and just the industry that we’re in,” Weir said. “At the end of the day, a lot of coaches are getting hired and fired and a lot of coaches have a very unstable job. I think he was maybe doing that in defense of coaches in this industry. … I don’t think he meant anything harshly specific to just Albuquerque or just New Mexico.”
OK, but 21 games into the season, was anything he said true about being the Lobos head coach?
“I’ve never once got a negative text, email, phone call or anything,” Weir said. “… The fans so far to me have been amazing. It made me feel even more guilty – I actually wanted a little bit more (heat when the team was struggling). Like, ‘Coach, you don’t know what you’re doing’ or ‘You guys suck.’ Or whatever. When people are really nice to you and (the team is not succeeding) and people are dropping off food in your office because they hear you’re not eating and they’re doing these things because they care and they’re supportive, it just makes me not sleep even more and want to work even harder to give them what they want – which is a winning product.”