Editor’s note: video links, including of Paul Weir abruptly ending his press conference, are at bottom of article.
The fire the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team hasn’t shown over the past eight days erupted from one of the more unlikely of spots Tuesday night beneath the bleacher seats of the DreamStyle Arena.
Moments after the Lobos blew a 17-point lead, falling on their home court to the Colorado Buffaloes, 78-75, for their third-consecutive embarrassing loss, their usually composed head coach Paul Weir abruptly ended his postgame press conference with an unlikely fit of emotional frustration, culminating with his slamming the wall outside the mid-ramp press room in the Pit.
“My heart goes out to the 10,800 people (the announced attendance in the Pit on Tuesday night),” Weir said early in his press conference. “I can’t even begin to say how guilty I feel for the amount of support we get here and the product we’re putting out right now.”
Asked why his team, which falls to 4-4 on the season, hadn’t shown the same fire as last year’s team — one picked in the preseason to finish ninth but ended up third in the Mountain West and playing for the league’s tournament title game in March — Weir’s frustration boiled over.
“It was for 20 minutes or so,” Weir said, referring to his team showing fire in a first half that saw the Lobos lead their Pac-12 Conference visitors by as many as 17 points at 32-15 with 7:07 left in the first half.
“It was last year for 15 games or so. But we just haven’t done it yet. And that’s as much on Paul Weir as it is on anybody else. We’re eight games in and we have not done that to the level that I would have expected.
“I’ve tried a lot of different things to pull that out of this team as far as different motivational techniques, different teaching techniques, different practice techniques. I mean, I’m trying it all. And I’m going to continue to try it all. I’m going to do every single thing in my power to try and bring it out of this team, but it has not come out of this team yet and that is no one’s fault other than Paul Weir. And Paul Weir will continue to dig and claw and scratch to find a way to make this team do what I want it, and what we want it to do. And I’m sorry that hasn’t happened yet. I’m sorry more than you’re ever going to know. I’m done.”
Weir then stood up from the table he was sitting at, flung open the media room door and slammed his hand against a wall before walking up to the coaches offices in the Rudy Davalos practice facility.
Sitting next to the door as Weir stormed off was senior guard Dane Kuiper, who said it’s time the players start picking up the slack for their coach, who consistently has taken the blame for all the team’s losses, including both last week that were by a combined 60 points.
“He’s a great coach,” Kuiper said. “He blames a lot of the coaching on him. We’re the ones out there playing, you know? We have to put forth the effort. He has a right to be upset like that.”
The Lobos huge first half lead was slowly eroded by the Buffs (8-1), first by a 35-foot buzzer-beating 3-pointer hit by Deleon Brown to make it 43-34 at the break. Then in the second half, after UNM forced 12 CU turnovers in the first 20 minutes, they forced only one in the second 20 minutes.
CU used runs of 10-0 and 14-3 in the second half to take the lead for good on a McKinley Wright bucket with 4:36 remaining for a 66-64 lead.
“We gutted out a win when we didn’t play our best offensively,” said CU coach Tad Boyle, whose team shot 41.9 percent in the game and 26.3 (5-19) from 3-point range. “Didn’t shoot the ball well from 3. Missed a lot of shots in the lane. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line. And we found a way to win. And this was the best game New Mexico has played.”
After senior Anthony Mathis hit 3-pointer with 7 second left cut the lead to 76-75, Mathis fouled out on the ensuing inbounds play, leaving the team’s best shooter on the bench when CU took a 3-point lead. UNM had one last chance with 5.8 seconds remaining.
Weir said “in retrospect” it was a bad call to leave Mathis, who had four fouls at the time and finished with a game-high 23 points and hit seven 3-pointers, in the game.
Since the Lobos were trying to steal the ball, he said, he wanted Mathis in just in case.
Instead, the plan backfired. And the Lobos’ skid continues — one not even their usually even-tempered coach can figure out how to fix.
BOX SCORE: COLORADO 78, NEW MEXICO 75