ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) New Mexico looked to its own backyard for a new men’s basketball coach by hiring New Mexico State head coach Paul Weir to lead the Lobos.
”There’s going to be a lot of questions about me. I totally get it,” Weir said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. ”I was a one-year head coach. I’m coming from New Mexico State. I’m a little bit unknown and I’m well aware of what I’m stepping into.”
What’s he’s stepping into is a New Mexico program that has lost four players with remaining eligibility who decided to transfer and a declining fan base. But Weir said he plans to re-energize the program through style of play.
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”Our team is going to play really hard,” he said. ”I know that sounds cliche. I know that sounds kind of boring but that’s really what I pride myself on is us being the hardest-working team that can possibly be. We’re not going to look for excuses. We’re not going to be flashy. We’re just going to play really hard and really fast.”
Weir, who set a school record with 28 wins last season in his first year as the Aggies’ head coach, replaces Craig Neal. Neal was dismissed late last month after four years at the helm and another six years as associate head coach under Steve Alford.
”In conducting this search, his was a name that was on our radar from the beginning,” New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs said in a statement. ”I was able to see many of their games this season, and Paul is a bright young mind in the game. His teams play with tremendous passion and energy.”
Krebs said he believes the qualities displayed by Weir’s teams will translate to the Lobos program and resonate with fans.
”One of the things that really impressed me about coach Weir in the interview process, and it was a very impressive interview, there was a lot of conversation about leadership and developing a team, a sense of unity and leadership,” Krebs said.
Weir spent nine seasons as an assistant coach under Marvin Menzies at New Mexico State before Menzies left for UNLV. Weir and Neal were both assistants under Alford at Iowa before Alford came to New Mexico. Weir also was an assistant coach at Northwestern State in Louisiana.
As a rookie head coach, Weir led the Aggies to a Western Athletic Conference tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, where they eventually lost to No. 3 seed Baylor after holding a halftime lead. New Mexico State split a pair of games with the Lobos last season before reeling off a 20-game winning streak.
Krebs announced Neal’s dismissal on the eve of the Final Four and said interest in the position was extremely high. Among Krebs’ stated criteria for a new hire was head coaching experience. The final field was narrowed to five finalists before Weir was selected.
”I will be the first to admit that while Paul has been a head coach for only one year, you look at what he accomplished in that one year, I think the committee felt was very impressive,” Krebs said.
The final contract details are still being ironed out, but Weir will be paid $625,000 in the first year, Krebs said.
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