LAS CRUCES — Nothing has just been handed to Paul Weir.
After a 10-day national search that included intense public pressure to hire him and an athletic director insistent on identifying and interviewing several assistant coaches from nationally-ranked, Power 5 conference schools, the search for New Mexico State University’s new men’s basketball coach turned up the guy who had been sitting on the Aggies bench the whole time.
Weir, the nine-year assistant for NMSU who spent the past five seasons as the associate head coach, was chosen Tuesday to replace Marvin Menzies, who last week accepted the head coaching position at UNLV.
He becomes the first Canadian-born head coach in NCAA Division I basketball.
“Twelve years ago, I got into a car in Toronto, Canada, and I drove 30 hours to Natchitoches, La., to pursue an American dream,” said Weir, talking about his first job as a 24-year-old graduate assistant at the Northwestern Sate University. “I mopped floors and worked concession stands and mowed lawns to hopefully one day stand at a podium like this and realize that dream.”
What made the dream even more perfect, the 36-year-old Weir said Tuesday while fighting back tears in front of a couple hundred Aggies fans in the Pan American Center, was that his first head coaching job comes at a school he has grown to love over the past decade.
“The history of this program is illustrious,” Weir said. “This is an undertaking that I do not take lightly.”
Weir noted the respect he had for NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia in opening up the search nationally and giving the process due diligence to prove he was the right person for the job.
Weir’s contract, though not released to the media yet as NMSU President Garrey Carruthers is out of town until Friday, is for four years with a base salary of $250,000 per season with incentive bonuses that could make the deal reach $390,000 ($90,000 for performance bonuses and another $50,000 for ticket revenue goals aimed to improve NMSU’s dwindling attendance). An automatic one-year extension comes with a WAC tournament or regular season title in the first two seasons.
In introducing his wife, Las Cruces High and NMSU gradate, Alma, and infant son, Theodore, Weir elaborated even more on his love both for history and NMSU basketball, but also on his vision for the future for his team.
“I named my son after Theodore Roosevelt,” Weir said. “He once said, ‘Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.’ We’re going to keep our eyes on 1970 (the season NMSU went to the Final Four) and we’re going to do it with a humble, aggressive, passionate work ethic and an underdog mentality that you’ve never seen before.”
After two seasons working for Mike McConathy at Northwestern State, Weir landed a basketball operations gig at Iowa working for Steve Alford thanks to a Canadian contact he made with current UNM head coach Craig Neal several years prior when Neal was an assistant for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.
“Couldn’t be more excited for Paul’s opportunity at New Mexico State,” said Neal. “I knew that he had the ability to become a head coach one day when working together at Iowa! He is a great recruiting and even better X and O coach. So happy for him. He is one of my favorite people in the business.”
While NMSU has won 198 games and went to five NCAA Tournament’s while Weir has been on staff, the program also 3-15 against instate rival UNM and had no significant non-conference victories of note in that time.
“I think we need to kind of improve our toughness quotient a little bit,” Weir said about how he plans to improving the non-conference play. “Get some guys with a little bit of sand paper.”
Weir has been in charge of New Mexico State’s defense for the past five seasons. The 63.1 points per game NMSU allowed this past season ranked 10th among 351 DI programs.
NMSU has no open scholarships, though underclassmen stars Ian Baker and Pascal Siakam are currently testing the NBA draft waters, but have not hired agents and can return to NMSU next season. Two Canadian players Weir recruited to NMSU from Toronto — center Tanveer Bhullar and guard Matt Taylor — were at Tuesday’s press conference and now plan to remain Aggies after asking last week to be released from their scholarships.
What they are saying about Paul Weir
(courtesy of NMSU media relations)
UNLV head coach, New Mexico State head coach (2007-2016)
“Our journey together was a very successful one, and so much so that it’s given him the opportunity to grow and prepare to be a head coach that can hit the ground running at a place that he obviously loves and is committed to. Paul is extremely loyal and extremely passionate toward the sport and the players. He just does everything the right way. He is as well rounded as any coach I have worked with or met. Everything we have done in the past has prepared him for this opportunity. I don’t think there is anyone on the planet that can have such an ease of transition because of his familiarity with players, booster club, and our academics. The bottom line is he familiar with the whole enchilada to keep the ball rolling in the right direction.”
National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, NM State head coach (1966-75, 1997-2005)
“I’ve really gotten to know Paul in his time here. He has unbelievable knowledge of the game. We talk basketball a lot and he talks like a head coach. He is a tremendous teacher and proved it with the way he handled the Aggies defense. He’s a great speaker and works well with the public. Paul Weir has the total package. I know Paul will do a fantastic job.”
UCLA head coach
“Paul is a very loyal individual. I really appreciated his knowledge of coaching and his tireless work ethic. What’s most impressive about Paul is how he touches and manages all aspects of coaching. He’s a very prepared individual and his player see and feel that daily.”
Northwestern State head coach
“I’m so proud of him. That is such wonderful news about a man who is extremely worthy of this opportunity. Paul is one of the brightest, most enthusiastic, and remarkable people I’ve been involved with, not only in the sport of basketball but as an outstanding individual in any field. He is extremely principled, a vital characteristic of productive leadership. The building blocks are in place educationally, socially, spiritually and basketball-wise to enable him to lead New Mexico State to great heights.”
Canadian Men’s National Team head coach and Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach
“Paul has helped so many of our young Canadian players and players who have represented Canada. Part of the surge of basketball talent in Canada is because of coaches like Paul. He has put in his time and I am so happy that he finally gets to lead a team and University that he has so proudly represented.”
New Mexico head coach
“I couldn’t be more excited for Paul’s opportunity at New Mexico State. I knew that he had the ability to become a head coach one day when working together at Iowa. He is a great recruiting and even better X’s and O’s coach. I’m so happy for him. He is one of my favorite people in the business.”