Make no mistake. Tuesday was a great day for Paul Weir.
It was a rough day for New Mexico State.
And it was a wait-and-see day for the University of New Mexico.
Congratulations to Weir, the 37-year-old Canadian who epitomizes the American Dream. Even if he wasn’t UNM’s first choice to take over Lobo men’s basketball — athletic director Paul Krebs, during Tuesday’s introductory news conference at the Pit, went to great pains not to say who was — Weir took his opportunity and maximized it. He rocked the interview and didn’t mind saying so.
Krebs didn’t mind saying so either. He compared Weir in the interview process to Urban Meyer, a football coach he reminded us that he hired once long, long ago at a school far, far away.
But get this: When it came time Tuesday to continue the tradition of donning the cherry blazer before cameras, media and fans, Weir deferred, essentially saying he hadn’t yet earned the privilege.
It was a mix of appropriate, essential confidence — you all want a confident guy to lead your Lobos — and humility, served up in a first impression to the hopeful and faithful.
UNM is more than doubling Weir’s salary, and though he insisted taking this job isn’t about the money, who can begrudge a provider for a family (wife Alma, 2-year-old son Theodore) for doing just that?
Apparently a faction of the Aggie Nation can. Some of those people, Weir said Tuesday, “are disappointed in me and will never forgive me.”
Part of it, we get. New Mexico State basketball starts over again. NMSU is reminded that it is Little Brother to UNM’s Big Brother. And NMSU is reminded, annoyingly, that whatever UNM has little of — in this case, money for athletics — NMSU has even less of.
That said, a reminder or two: Yes, young Mr. Weir was in Las Cruces for over a decade, but it’s not like an Aggie woman birthed him or an AD plucked him while floating in a basket from the Rio Grande. He had started at even more humble places — he swept floors and worked concessions as a graduate student at Northwestern (La.) State — with the hopes of one day doing what he did at New Mexico State.
NMSU, like it or not, remains a steppingstone athletics program. When the Aggies led Baylor at halftime of their first-round NCAA Tournament program, my reflexive thoughts were that an upset in a 3-vs.-14 matchup would put Weir on the national radar, in the front of the line for a bigger and better job than UNM could compete with, let alone New Mexico State.
NMSU should be glad Weir left the program in fine shape for his successor.
Now, Lobos, is it appropriate to be skeptical that a one-year head coach is ready to take on this job, especially after UNM went all in on Craig Neal’s first-year success?
Weir gets only an A-minus for this past season’s work. Finishing second in the Western Athletic Conference after a late-season slump and getting worked by Baylor after halftime prevented a higher grade. This hiring is an act of faith on the part of Krebs and Co.
But that goes both ways.
The UNM job isn’t what it once was. The roster is in potential shambles. The Pit mystique is gone. The fan base is apathetic. Who will be the next president, and will the president want Krebs? The league Weir is coming to might be better — but only slightly — than the one he left. That’s what happened, Mountain West, when in 2010 you started poaching the Western Athletic Conference. Guess what? You became the WAC.
Nonetheless, in Weir, the Lobos look to have an outstanding representative of the program. It’s obvious that he cares about the right issues and, importantly, knows how to articulate it. His sprinkling of a Greek philosopher’s quote into Tuesday’s proceedings didn’t at all seem staged or affected. This is a guy working on his dissertation for a Ph.D. in educational leadership. He reads books and knows things.
Weir was in the middle of an answer Tuesday when the cry of a child could be heard from the other side of a wall. Upon a look between him and Alma, she quickly dashed from her front-row seat to check on the toddler.
Which brings up a pertinent point: If ever there comes the time when Theodore is a high school senior, and Paul Weir is facing a decision on whether he should recruit his child to play for him at New Mexico, this deal will have worked out splendidly.