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The Craig Neal Era at UNM: A Timeline

2007

March 23: Steve Alford is named head basketball coach at UNM, replacing the fired Ritchie McKay. Craig Neal, who had also worked under Alford at Iowa, is named an assistant and signs a four-year contract.

2012:

November: Eldorado star Cullen Neal, son of UNM assistant Craig Neal, signs with Saint Mary’s, which is in Moraga, Calif.

2013

March 30: Alford resigns to accept the head coaching position at UCLA. Given that the Lobos have won an unprecedented 155 games over the previous six seasons, Neal’s name surfaces as a possible replacement.

April 3: UNM athletic director Paul Krebs names Craig Neal as Alford’s successor. Neal receives a five-year deal at $750,000 with more than $130,000 available in incentives. “This is one of the happiest days of my life, between my two sons being born,” said Neal.

Craig Neal was the overwhelming choice of the Lobo Nation to succeed Steve Alford as men's basketball coach in 2013. (Journal file)

Craig Neal was the overwhelming choice of the Lobo Nation to succeed Steve Alford as men’s basketball coach in 2013. (Journal file)

April 13: Saint Mary’s releases Cullen Neal from his letter of intent, allowing the son to sign at UNM and play for his father.

Nov. 9: Behind Cam Bairstow’s 22 points, UNM defeats visiting Alabama A&M 88-52 in the 2013-14 opener for Neal’s first win as a head coach.

2014

Jan. 8: In an overtime win at Wyoming, freshman Cullen Neal earns a technical for blowing a kiss to the crowd. “A player made a bad decision,” Craig Neal says.

March 15: Second-seeed UNM beats top-seeded San Diego State 64-58 in the Mountain West tournament final, after which Aztecs coach Steve Fisher labels the Lobos “a top-10, top-15 team.”

UNM coach Craig Neal talks to Lobos Kendall Williams, Hugh Greenwood (3) and Cameron Bairstow during action in the 2013-14 season, when the Lobos went 27-7 and won the Mountain West tournament title. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM coach Craig Neal talks to Lobos Kendall Williams, Hugh Greenwood (3) and Cameron Bairstow during action in the 2013-14 season, when the Lobos went 27-7 and won the Mountain West tournament title. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

March 21: UNM, as a seventh seed, falls 58-53 to Stanford in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64, ending its season at 27-7.

March 30: After his name surfaces as a contender to coach at South Florida, Neal issues a statement that he’s staying at UNM. “I am humbled and blessed to be the coach at New Mexico!”

March 31: UNM and Neal announce a two-year contract extension through 2019-20, but says no raise is involved.

Sept. 8: UNM reveals that it agreed in July to give Neal a $200,000 raise to $950,000.

Nov. 20: Cullen Neal suffers a severe high ankle sprain in a loss to Boston College. He misses the rest of the season, and at games is often seated next to his father.

Dec. 23: In the final game before Christmas, UNM falls 68-65 at Grand Canyon, a team transitioning from NCAA Division II to Division I.

2015

Feb. 28: The injury-plagued Lobos lose their eighth straight game, 59-55 at Fresno State and falls to 14-15. At 6-11 and in eighth place in the MWC, UNM is relegated to a tournament play-in game.

March 11: UNM falls to Air Force in a play-in game and finishes the 2014-15 season with a 15-16 record.

Nov. 3: UNM commits 20 turnovers in a 96-84 exhibition win vs. CSU-Pueblo. Later, Neal turns defensive when asked about the turnovers. “There’s one thing I do know. I don’t try to be electrician. I’m not an engineer. I don’t work at Sandia (National Laboratories). I don’t work up at Los Alamos (National Laboratory). I don’t try to be radio host. I do know one thing. I know who can play point guard because I’ve played at the highest level. … So, there’s things that I’m not an expert at but I do know one thing: how to play that position. Who can play it. And who’s going to play it. I’ve played that at the highest level and coached at the highest level so the turnovers (issue) does not bother me.”

Dec. 19: UNM loses 90-89 at the Pit to Rice, which rallied from a 17-point deficit and hit a techincal free throw with one second left after junior Tim Williams calls a time-out his team didn’t have. “This game is on me,” Neal says.

Dec. 25: UNM goes 0-for 3 in a Hawaiian tournament with an 82-59 loss to Washington State. Cullen Neal is benched after eight minutes of play. “We have some issues,” Neal says.

2016

Feb. 11: At a press conference, Craig Neal says his son Cullen has received “death threats” from critics of his play. Asked to clarify, Craig Neal won’t, but AD Krebs confirms the university is investigating.

Cullen Neal’s play came under much scrutiny during his time at UNM under his father. (Journal file)

Cullen Neal’s play came under much scrutiny during his time at UNM under his father. (Journal file)

Feb. 13: A vocal crowd announced at 13,411 showers Cullen Neal with support, waving signs that read “Go Cullen” as the Lobos rout San Jose State and move to 74-58. Craig Neal won’t confirm Cullen received death threats, saying “I’m done with it.”

March 1: UNM loses at home 83-56 to rival San Diego State, the largest margin of victory by either team in 82 games between the two. Krebs announces he will evaluate Craig Neal at season’s end. UNM falls to 16-14, 9-8.

March 10: UNM falls to 17-15 with a 64-62 loss to Nevada in a first-round MWC tourney game. It’s the second consecutive one-and-done at the tourney in Las Vegas, Nev., after tourney titles from 2012-14. But afterward, Craig Neal said he hopes his team gets to play in the postseason in the Collegiate Basketball Invitational (CBI).

March 11: Krebs and deputy AD Janice Ruggiero say UNM won’t play in the CBI despite previously agreeing to do so.

March 14: Cullen Neal announces he will transfer from UNM with two years of eligibility remaining.

April 13: Cullen Neal decides on Ole Miss.

Oct. 12: UNM is picked to finish third in the Mountain West in 2016-17. Elijah Brown and Tim Williams are picked preseason all-MWC.

Oct. 14: The Lobo Howl takes place before an announced 5,463, lowest turnout in years. Craig Neal doesn’t take questions at the event, but on the team’s Twitter account, posted a 1-minute, 4-second video in which he said: “This is the 51th (sic) season that we need to be in top 25 in attendance, and we can only do it without (sic) our fans.”

Nov. 2: UNM routs Western New Mexico 113-57 in the exhibition opener despite missing Elijah Brown, whose preseason work has been limited by a hamstring injury.

Dec. 10: After an 84-71 loss at New Mexico State, Neal said, “I can’t coach effort.” He also said the same thing in February after a loss to Colorado State.

Dec. 20: UNM falls to 7-5 with a 77-46 by No. 18 Arizona in Tucson, where a fan heckled Neal throughout the game, saying the Lobos need a new coach. Krebs says he won’t entertain questions about Neal’s job status.

2017

Jan. 7: UNM loses 105-104 in overtime to Nevada, which erased a 25-point second-half deficit — and rallied from 14 down in the final 1:16 of regulation.

March 9: UNM, seeded fifth, loses to Fresno State in the first round of the Mountain West tournament, ending its season at 17-14. Neal says he “likes where the program is.”

March 10: UNM AD Paul Krebs announces that Neal will return to coach the Lobos in 2017-18.

March 20: Guards Elijah Brown and Anthony Mathis announce they are transferring from UNM. Neal says he has met with every player, and only those two had requested releases from their scholarships.

Sam Logwood, right, announced he would leave UNM despite having only one season of college eligibility remaining. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Sam Logwood, right, announced he would leave UNM despite having only one season of college eligibility remaining. (Marla Brose/Journal)

March 27: Sam Longwood becomes the third Lobo from the 2016-17 team to announce he is leaving.

March 28: Point guard Jalen Harris becomes the fourth.

March 31: UNM announces around midnight that Neal has been relieved of his coaching duties.

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