Craig Neal to coach Lobos next season, AD says | KOB.com
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Craig Neal to coach Lobos next season, AD says

J.R. Oppenheim
March 10, 2017 07:07 PM

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach Craig Neal will be back for the 2017-18 season, the school’s athletic director said in a statement Friday.

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One day after the Lobos bowed out early in the Mountain West tournament, UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs acknowledged disappointment in the team’s on-court performance this year. The Lobos failed to reach 20 wins for the third straight year and lost to Fresno State 65-60 in Thursday’s tournament quarterfinals.

However, Krebs said he plans to stick with Neal at the helm next year. He released his statement “in order to end speculation” about the coach’s future with the program.

“The team went through a very difficult season with several injuries to key players that hindered the quest for a championship, and we were in contention until the final three weeks,” Krebs said in his statement.

The Lobos finished the season with a 17-14 record, including 10-8 in Mountain West games. UNM has yet to reach the NCAA tournament since Neal’s first season in 2013-14.

Neal's current contract runs through 2020. He received a contract extension after his first year as head coach when his Lobos were 27-7 and reached the NCAA tournament. If UNM decided to terminate Neal's contract early, Neal is due a $1 million buyout.

“I have high expectations of the program, as does Craig, and our on-court performance needs to improve,” Krebs said.

In his postgame press conference Thursday night, Neal said he’s “not oblivious” to fans’ expectations for conference tournament wins and NCAA tournament appearances especially considering he was part of three straight Mountain West titles. He also said he appreciates the support his team gets from fans.

“I like where the program is. I like the young players we have. I like who we've signed,” Neal said. “We've got some stuff we've got to figure out.”

Krebs did point to the Lobos’ recent academic progress and work in the community as positives and expressed optimism about the incoming recruiting class.

Here is Krebs’ statement in full:

In order to end speculation, I’m announcing that Craig Neal will return and coach the men’s basketball team next season. The team went through a very difficult season with several injuries to key players that hindered the quest for a championship, and we were in contention until the final three weeks. Off the court, the team continues to be leaders in the classroom and in the community. I have high expectations of the program, as does Craig, and our on-court performance needs to improve. We have an excellent incoming recruiting class and we fully expect to return Lobo Basketball to the high level of excellence and achievement that our fans deserve.

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J.R. Oppenheim

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