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Neal up for pair of national coaching honors

He was the first University of New Mexico first-year men’s basketball coach to take the Lobos to the NCAA Tournament and Craig Neal also set a rookie head coaching record for the program with 27 wins in his first season.

Now, he’s a finalist for a pair of national coaching awards.

Neal is one of 10 finalists for the Joe B. Hall Award given to the top first-year head coach in Division I basketball. None of the other nine finalists are at a major conference school and Neal joined two finalists — Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood and American University’s Mike Brennan — in the NCAA Tournament this season.

Neal is also a finalist for the Jim Phelan Award for National Coach of the Year, joining his UNM predecessor, Steve Alford (UCLA), and Mountain West Conference rival Steve Fisher (San Diego State) and 12 other finalists.

The winner of both awards will be announced at the awards banquet April 4 in Dallas.


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Here are all the finalists for the awards:

Joe B. Hall (rookie head coach)

Mike Brennan, American
Tim Craft, Gardner-Webb
Pat Duquette, UMass-Lowell
Bobby Hurley, Buffalo
Robert Jones, Norfolk State
Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon
Nicholas McDevitt, UNC Asheville
Craig Neal, New Mexico
Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin
Will Wade, Chattanooga

Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year

Steve Alford, UCLA
Rick Barnes, Texas
John Beilein, Michigan
Tony Bennett, Virginia
Ed Cooley, Providence
Billy Donovan, Florida
Steve Fisher, San Diego State
Danny Manning, Tulsa
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Sean Miller, Arizona
Greg McDermott, Creighton
Tim Miles, Nebraska
Craig Neal, New Mexico
Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin
Jay Wright, Villanova

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