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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Men's Basketball: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Lobo men’s basketball head coach Craig Neal thanks fans for attending the final home game of the 2013-2014 season. Neal is set to receive a two-year contract extension through 2019-2020.

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@JROppenheim

Men’s head basketball coach Craig Neal reached a deal with UNM to extend his contract for an additional two years, the UNM Athletic Department announced Monday afternoon.

When he was hired last year, Neal signed a five-year deal that would have run through the 2017-18 season. The contract extension is now good through 2019-20.

Financial terms for the contract remain the same, meaning Neal will continue to earn $750,000 in base salary and additional compensation. The deal also included incentives for conference championships, NCAA tournament appearances and runs, conference coaching awards, wins over top-25 programs and academic success.

In a statement, Neal expressed his appreciation for UNM Athletics Director Paul Krebs, President Robert Frank and the school’s administration. An end-of-season press conference is expected for Wednesday afternoon.

“We have a tremendous program here at New Mexico, with an unbelievable facility and great fans,” Neal said in the statement. “Having raised my children here in New Mexico, I’m excited to be the coach here and I’m excited for our future as a program.”

Neal’s name came up with regard to a head coaching gig at South Florida when CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish last Thursday called the Lobo coach a “legitimate target” for the job.

This past season was the best rookie season for any head coach in UNM history. Neal led the Lobos to a 27-7 record and a Mountain West tournament title. He won more games in his first year than did his predecessor, close friend and previous record-holder Steve Alford.

Both men are among 15 candidates for the Jim Phelan Award, given to the national coach of the year. Neal is also a finalist for the Joe B. Hall Award, given to the nation’s best rookie head coach. UNM is Neal’s first experience with any kind of head coaching position.

Neal worked with Alford for three years at Iowa and six years at UNM. Prior to that he served as a scout and an assistant coach for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.

Though the CBS Sports report floated Neal’s name as a potential candidate at USF, Lobo recruit Jordan Hunter and his mother both took to Twitter on Sunday saying that Neal had told them he would remain at UNM.

“’I’m not going anywhere, Jordan’ – Craig Neal #GoLobos,” Jordan Hunter tweeted.

As it turns out, Hunter was correct.

“We are excited about the direction of the program under Craig’s leadership,” Krebs said in a statement, “and we are glad that he wants to be here at the University of New Mexico.”

Bairstow an AP All-American honorable mention

Earlier Monday, the Associated Press placed UNM forward Cameron Bairstow among its honorable mentions for the All-American team. Bairstow, the Mountain West tournament MVP, joined San Diego State’s Xavier Thames, the conference player of the year, on the AP honorable mention list.

The AP first team is comprised of Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick.