Craig Neal named New Mexico head coach

Craig Neal, associate head for the New Mexico Lobos under former head coach Steve Alford for the past six years, has accepted the head coaching position at UNM the school announced by a brief press release later Tuesday afternoon.Alford's abrupt departure Saturday, when he was announced as the new head coach of the UCLA Bruins - replacing Ben Howland at the Los Angeles-based school.

Neal, who was named interim head coach by UNM athletic director Paul Krebs on Saturday, will be introduced as the Lobos' new head man at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at The Pit.

Neal, who also spent spent three seasons as an assistant under Alford with the Iowa Hawkeyes followed by a stint over the past six seasons at New Mexico and has been widely regarded as a co-architect of the Lobos' success in that time. Neal's contract is reportedly for five years at $750,000 plus incentives.

Neal was a finalist for the head coaching openings with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Colorado St. Rams last season before being passed over for those jobs. The position at UNM is his first as a Division I head coach.

Like Steve Alford, Neal was an All-State performer in high school in Indiana before playing his college ball at Georgia Tech. Neal was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1988 in the third round and played eight seasons total in the NBA, Continental Basketball Association and in Europe. His pro career included stops with the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.

Neal spent a season as the coach of the Fort Wayne Fury of the CBA before joining the Toronto Raptors organization in 1997. He first served as a scout and later as an assistant coach under Lenny Wilkins.

He and his wife, Janet, have two sons, Cullen and Dalton. Cullen Neal, currently a senior at Eldorado high School in Albuquerque, signed a Letter of Intent to play with the St. Mary's, Calif. Gaels starting next season.

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