Paul Weir had hoped to capitalize on the momentum of his team’s late-season surge — and that seven-game winning streak going into the March 10 Mountain West tournament championship game — that had fans starting to buzz again about Lobo basketball.
He can finally stop sending emails to his bosses, pleading with them to get season tickets on sale for the 2018-19 season, his second as the head coach of the Lobos men’s basketball team.
“Tickets are on sale. I had been waiting to do a press conference until those were kind of official,” Weir said Tuesday at a wide-ranging, state-of-the-program press conference that covered season tickets going on sale, players transferring in, players transferring out, coaching contracts, scheduling and more.
But, as Weir made clear, season-ticket sales are the theme of the offseason and getting Lobo basketball to be the community event it once was. The program’s average home attendance in Dreamstyle Arena this past season of 10,883 still ranked 33rd in the nation out of 351 Division I programs, but relatively impressive isn’t the same as the historical standing the Pit had over its first half century in existence.
“Obviously it’s really important to me and to our program,” Weir said. “We fell out of the Top 25 (in average home attendance) two years ago and then last year, as well. Nothing would make me more happy than to get our program back in the Top 25 in attendance. That’s obviously driven by season-ticket holders.”
Last year, they went on sale June 1. At the time, Weir said he had wished he could have been selling them himself at the time of his April 11 introductory press conference.
Admittedly, Weir said he has probably been overstepping the boundaries of his job being so insistent on putting tickets on sale sooner than UNM has traditionally done, even expressing frustrations last week at a gathering of the program’s 6th Man Club fundraising group after having been making the push internally for weeks.
At last Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, pressure was put on athletics by those at the top.
Regent Marron Lee made clear her desire to get the tickets on sale quickly. UNM Executive Vice President David Harris, when asked by Regent President Rob Doughty if the hold up was from athletics or the ticketing office, said it was an athletics issue, but he hoped it would soon change under new athletic director Eddie Nuñez.
“Athletics actually funds a number of positions in our ticket office and I think they coordinate together, certainly not as well as we expect to in the future,” Harris said. “We’ve got to add, um, passion (laughs) into our ticket-selling program. It’s just lacking. I think Eddie’s been talking about this, I believe, since the day he got here. It’s about time we responded.”
Ticket prices were not raised, and the cheapest seats in the house expanded by a few rows, according to deputy athletic director Brad Hutchins.
Ticket information can be found online at UNMtickets.com or at the UNM Ticket office.
SIMONS OUT: While it hasn’t been a secret at all around UNM since the end of the season, Weir for the first time on Tuesday announced junior shooting guard Troy Simons is expected to transfer out of the program, though he has not yet officially found a new school to play at next season. For that matter, neither have any of the three previously announced Lobo transfers: Connor MacDougall, Chris McNeal and Jachai Simmons.
On Simons, Weir said: “We were quietly trying to find a way for him to get closer to home. That was a wish he impressed upon me when the season ended — a wish we were trying to grant relatively quietly by contacting local schools in Pittsburgh so he can be closer to his daughter and his grandmother. … We’re still trying to facilitate that.”
ROSTER MAKEUP: The Lobos are at the NCAA-allowed limit of 13 scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. And Weir is mostly happy with what he has.
“I’m really excited about our roster, particularly up front with the depth and size that we have. I think it’s going to allow us to play the way we want to play at both ends of the court,” Weir said.
But what about at point guard?
Weir said he’s excited about junior college transfer Keith McGee, doesn’t want Ohio State transfer JaQuan Lyle to play much point guard, but he may have to, and the team will give another look at Anthony Mathis playing point guard minutes.
BRAGG: UNM filed last week an appeal with the NCAA to make 6-10 forward Carlton Bragg eligible at the beginning of the season. The former Kansas Jayhawk transferred to Arizona State, where he left school during the fall semester and enrolled at UNM in January. That would mean he wouldn’t be eligible until the end of this fall semester (mid-December).
Weir said Bragg is on pace to graduate on time, and ASU has indicated it would be supportive of the waiver.
COACHING STAFF: The Lobos assistant coaching staff has not yet been given contracts for next season, but Weir said he hoped that would be done soon and that he expects the entire staff to return from this past season.
SCHEDULE: There will be at least 17 regular season home games, and Weir said he is still trying to get home-and-home series signed with regional teams. The program had one end this past season with Arizona, will continue another this coming season with Colorado in the Pit, and is about to begin a new four-year series with UTEP.
ON NEVADA: Weir said he doesn’t often pay attention in the offseason to other team recruiting news, but can’t help but be in awe of the talent Nevada has racked up recently. He said it’s Nevada and everyone else in the Mountain West right now, and it’s up to teams like UNM to try to close the gap.