Despite a disappointing 2016-17 men’s basketball season for many Lobo fans, the team managed to walk away with something positive and arguably more important.
The team received a Team Academic Excellence Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The award recognizes collegiate programs that have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater. The Lobos finished with a 3.05 GPA as a team for the 2016-17 season — breaking a program record.
But it wasn’t the only time the men’s basketball team has received this award; it also picked up the accolade for exhibiting academic excellence in the 2015-16 season. The Lobos were the first team in the Mountain West division to earn the academic award, and New Mexico is now a two-time recipient of the award.
Boise State has joined the fold with UNM, as the only two teams in the Mountain West to receive the honor.
New Lobo head coach Paul Weir, though he wasn’t with the Lobos when they achieved its academic success last season, said he attributed the success the Lobos exhibited in the classroom to Keyana Smith, a student success manager for the men’s team.
“It is amazing to enter into a program with such a sound academic infrastructure in place,” Weir said in an email to the Daily Lobo. “Keyana Smith is as bright and detailed an academic advisor as I have seen in my college coaching career. I am really excited to work with her to continue this tradition and enhance it wherever we can.”
Weir said maintaining achievements in the classroom next season will continue to be an important area of focus, but not for the purpose of pursuing an award. The head coach said he believes reaching the pinnacle of success academically can be something the team can build on to be the best it can possibly be on and off the court.
“I can’t predict awards or accolades on any level. All we can do is make sure we are striving to be the best we can be every day,” Weir said. “If that means we win an award for that, great. If not, provided we have achieved our capacity and given our best effort, I will be just as proud of our student-athletes and staff.”
The success that follows performing well in the classroom is an idea that Weir seems to embody. And his message should be easy to receive, considering he has already shown his commitment to post-secondary education.
The 38-year-old coach received his bachelor’s degree from York University in 2004, a master’s degree in health and human performance from Northwestern University in 2005, a second master’s degree in sports psychology in 2010, a third master’s degree in business administration from New Mexico State University in 2012 and is currently pursuing his doctorate.
It seems safe to say that education is important to Weir, and the fact that he has “walked the walk” will likely be a great testament as he attempts to help the student-athletes he is coaching accomplish their goals.
“Formal education is something I have personally always subscribed to and continue to do so,” Weir added. “It becomes a lot easier to ‘practice what you preach’ with my own personal dedication to degree-seeking behaviors. We have a very successful program in place and however and whenever I can find ways to enhance that we surely will do so.”
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.