New Mexico associate head coach Craig Neal has been named the interim head coach after the departure of Steve Alford to UCLA, multiple outlets are now reporting as having been made official.
Neal has coached alongside Alford at New Mexico since 2007. Prior to that, he was also on the bench with Alford during his time at Iowa. He also has experience as an assistant coach at the NBA level with the Toronto Raptors. Since the announcement of Alford’s decision to make the move to UCLA, Neal has emerged as a top candidate to replace him on a full-time basis.
According to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, New Mexico center Alex Kirk has informed New Mexico’s athletic director Paul Krebs that he would transfer to UCLA if Neal was not hired to replace Alford. Kirk, a 7-0 native of New Mexico, averaged 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Lobos this past season.
“I’ll graduate in August and transfer to UCLA,” Kirk reportedly said, according to a source.
As Goodman points out, hiring Neal would not guarantee that the core of New Mexico’s conference title team would remain, but it would tilt the odds in their favor.