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Commentary: Moccia is right to at least see who’s out there

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Paul Weir has been a longtime staffer for New Mexico State men’s basketball under then-head coach Marvin Menzies. (NMSU photo)

Lou Henson is a Hall of Famer. He is the winningest basketball coach at his alma mater New Mexico State and at Illinois. He knows more about the sport than I know about anything. If he says Paul Weir is the right man to take over the Aggie men’s program, that’s good enough for me.

But it’s not for NMSU AD Mario Moccia.

And it shouldn’t be.

Weir has been a right-hand man to recently departed coach Marvin Menzies and has rightfully been named by Moccia as a finalist for the job. While you can argue HARRISON Randy_2012whether they could have done more in the Menzies-Weir era, the guys won a lot of trophies and went to a lot of NCAA Tournaments.

I’ve always believed in the notion that successful organizations should promote from within, thus rewarding those who have played a big part in that past success.

But let’s look at that again from a Cherry and Silver standpoint.

New Mexico AD Paul Krebs heard the hue and cry from the Lobo Nation, powerful people and fans, for assistant Craig Neal when Steve Alford left. He saw the players’ T-shirts asking for Noodles. Eventually, with little or no participation in an interview process, Krebs gave them what they wanted. Recall his to-the-point tweet: “Noodles”

Krebs also promoted from within when he named Yvonne Sanchez, longtime assistant in the most glorious era of UNM women’s basketball, to succeed the retiring Don Flanagan.

If the standard of success for UNM men’s basketball is either the NCAA Tournament or NIT, then the Lobos are 1-for-3 under head coach Craig Neal. (Journal file)

Neal has had two winning seasons, true. But if there is anything to take from this bizarre finish in March – “We’re going to play postseason,” on one day; “No we’re not” on the next – it is that Krebs at least defined acceptable success as either an NCAA Tournament or NIT berth. In that context, the Lobo men have fallen short two of Neal’s three years – significantly, the latter two as he puts his signature on the program. And if next season is no better, oh boy.

With Sanchez, it is a little more complicated, given that she had to start nearly from scratch five years ago when she lost an entire rising sophomore class. Her tenure

Yvonne Sanchez is out as UNM women's basketball coach, the university announced on Friday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Yvonne Sanchez’s final team didn’t build on the momentum from a solid team in the fourth of her five years as UNM women’s head coach. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

had peaks and valleys, but the low points came at bad times. Her program didn’t build sufficiently last season on a promising 2014-15, and Krebs could no longer sell himself on hope. Besides, UNM women’s hoops is a plum job – in relative terms, better than the men’s job, one can argue.

What to take from this? Though promoting from within may be great for short-term morale, it doesn’t guarantee further success.

Somebody has told CBSSports.com that the other three NMSU finalists, in addition to Weir, are Arizona associate head coach Joe Pasternack, Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang and Oklahoma assistant Chris Crutchfield. Nobody at NMSU has confirmed or denied those reports.

But those are guys who have been part of bigger and better programs. It makes perfect sense for Moccia to hear their pitches on what they could do to grow the program, to get NMSU some notable nonconference wins – especially against the big brothers up I-25. And he has to find ways to sell more seats to a fan base that is indifferent to those dirt-cheap tickets and no-name league foes. It’s part of his due diligence, as they say.

Earlier this week, it was reported that guard Matt Taylor and center Tanveer Bhullar are asking to be released from their NMSU scholarships so they can have the option to transfer.

If the two want to go because Menzies is gone, I get it and support it.

If they are trying to strong-arm Moccia into naming Weir as the new coach or else, they better have a good backup plan in case their bluff gets called. Neither is a transcendent talent and both already have used redshirt years. We’re not talking even a fraction of the marketability of a Cullen Neal.

Finally, good for Menzies. He did his time, needed a fresh start and showed great humility as UNLV first chose Chris Beard over him, then offered him again after Beard decided one week in Vegas paled in comparison to perhaps years in Lubbock.

Which reminds me of this:

One time, this girl was deciding between two guys. One guy was so poor that he couldn’t find two nickels to rub together. The other was so rich that he was trying to keep his Benjamins separate. Tax purposes, you see.

So she picked the rich guy even though she really liked the pauper better, and yet she had the audacity to ask the poor guy whether she could circle back to him if it didn’t work out with Daddy Warbucks.

“Uh, no,” said pobrecito.

But eventually she did circle back, and poor boy said yes. To follow were some hellish times that probably lasted not nearly as long as they seemed to.

When UNLV reconsidered Menzies, he had $3.75 million reasons to swallow his pride and say yes. Still, when the girl becomes available again and again and again, look for the red flag.

Good luck with all of that, Marvin.

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