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New Mexico hires Neal as head coach

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Apr 03 2013 09:31:59 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2013 11:31:24 PM CDT
closeup of basketball seams, ball

Jason Antony/SXC

Days after Steve Alford left the University of New Mexico to become the head coach at UCLA, his longtime right-hand man was hired as his replacement in Albuquerque.

Craig Neal is the Lobos' new head coach, the university announced Tuesday night.

Neal, 49, spent the past six seasons as the Lobos' associate head coach under Alford. Before that, he was an assistant for three years at the University of Iowa.

The University of New Mexico announced that Neal's five-year contract will pay $750,000 per year plus incentives. Neal will meet the Albuquerque media in a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

"I'm truly honored to be the head coach at the University of New Mexico," Neal said in a statement released by the school. "Over the past six years my family and I have been overwhelmed by the support we have received in this community. Coach Alford allowed me the opportunity to really make an impact on this program, and I'm excited to continue building on what we started six years ago."

New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs said in a statement, "Craig was a major part of a staff that has not only won championships but graduated student-athletes, raised our academics to record levels, and poured a tremendous amount of energy into our community in the form of service projects. Craig probably had as much freedom with our program in making decisions as any associate head coach in the country, and his time working with Coach Alford has prepared him fully for this task."

Neal was an all-Atlantic Coast Conference player for Georgia Tech in the late 1980s. He played briefly in the NBA for three teams, then had a one-year stint as an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors in 2002-03.