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Krebs: Resources not an issue in hiring new basketball coach

His athletic department’s well-documented financial woes, Paul Krebs said on Tuesday, will not stop the University of New Mexico from hiring a coach who can put UNM’s flagship athletic program back where it belongs.

“I’m very comfortable saying that we have the resources to attract highly qualified people who want to be here,” Krebs, UNM’s athletic director, said at a news conference held four days after the dismissal of men’s basketball coach Craig Neal. “There is significant interest in this job from highly respected coaches, outstanding coaches who have had success.

“The economic package that we put in front of a coach, whatever that ends up being, will be (one) that will be able to attract the right people. … I’m very, very confident that we will get the right person and that money will not be an issue.”

Regarding an existing money issue, Neal’s $1 million contract buyout, Krebs said he believes that is manageable as it’s to be paid out: $500,000 a year for two years in 24 monthly payments.

Hiring the right coach under the right contract terms, he said, would be a good starting place.

“With the right leader in place, I would expect our season ticket sales would rise,” Krebs said. “I would suspect that, associated with that, we may see an uptick in donations.

“I think more contract flexibility, maybe backloading the contract, would help. And I think we need to look at other options.”

He said the new coach’s buyout clause — standard in virtually any coaching contract — could be structured differently as well:  “We’ll assess buyout provisions to protect the university, just as a coach’s representative will try to protect the coach’s interests. That’s all part of a negotiation.”

Trimming down within the athletic department, Krebs said, is an option already undertaken.

“We’ve been looking at cuts in our athletic department and reductions in expenses, as well as trying to increase revenue throughout the last year,” he said.

Krebs offered no names of possible coaching candidates.

“The best way to conduct a search is to do it in as quiet a way as possible,” he said. “You don’t want to lose candidates. You don’t want people who may have current jobs to pull themselves out of availability because it compromises their position if their name gets out.”

Krebs is conducting the search himself. The priority, he said, is hiring someone with experience as a head coach.

Three of Krebs’ highest-profile hires since his arrival at UNM, Neal, football coach Mike Locksley and women’s basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez, had no previous college head coaching experience. All three were fired.

The hiring decision, he said, will not rest solely on his shoulders.

“In any key hiring decision at the university, certainly as it relates to athletics, I’m going to make a recommendation to the leadership of the university as to who I think we should hire,” he said. “I would presume that’s how this process would work.”

Krebs was asked several times about what took place between March 10, when Krebs announced that Neal would return for a fifth season, and Friday night, when it was announced Neal had been fired.

Certainly, he said, the decision to transfer by four players with eligibility remaining — guards Elijah Brown, Anthony Mathis and Jalen Harris and forward Sam Logwood — was a factor.

“But there were other factors as well,” he said, choosing not to elaborate.

Regarding the hiring process, Krebs echoed the words of former UCLA coach John Wooden: be quick, but don’t hurry.

“There’s always an urgency,” Krebs said, citing the possibility of a new coach re-recruiting the aforementioned four players and the approach of the spring signing period (to begin on April 12). “You want to move as quickly as possible, but you don’t want to rush into any decision that hasn’t been well thought out.”

UNM player Dane Kuiper  shed no light on why his four teammates were opting to transfer.

“I haven’t actually talked to them much about it, but I definitely want them here,” he said.

Kuiper expressed fondness and respect for Neal but said he did not consider transferring after Neal was fired.

“I don’t have any thought of leaving,” he said. “My parents always taught me, when you start something, finish it.”

NO BANQUET: UNM said on its basketball Twitter feed that the men’s end of the season banquet scheduled for April 13 is canceled, and that refunds will be issued to ticket-buyers.