University of New Mexico men’s basketball head coach Paul Weir will step down at the conclusion of the 2020-21. Weir’s exit was announced on Friday, Feb. 26.
Weir currently has a 58-60 record at UNM and a career record of 86-66 after coaching one season at New Mexico State University.
The announcement came as UNM winds down a tumultuous season that not only saw the Lobos go 6-14 on the season thus far but 2-14 within the Mountain West, a record that has UNM sitting dead last in the conference.
Weir informed the team of the decision the same day his departure was made public.
In a UNM Athletics press release, the decision to part ways with Weir was characterized as a mutual decision.
“Paul and I agree that a change of leadership in our men’s basketball program is in our best interest at this time,” UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said.
“I can’t imagine a more optimal epoch than now for all of us to embrace a fresh start,” Weir said. “I am incredibly thankful to Eddie (Nuñez), President (Garnett) Stokes and the UNM personnel that have kindly provided the opportunity for me to segue my career in such a courteous manner.”
Ultimately, the decision to part ways with Weir came down to how the program was progressing — or the lack thereof.
"It's about looking at the whole body of the program ... and the progress of the program," Nuñez said during a press conference on Feb. 27.
There is currently no timetable for hiring the next men’s basketball head coach, but Nuñez said he planned on taking his time during the selection process.
"We want to do this as fast as we can, but we're not going to do it fast just because. We're going to do it right,” Nuñez said.
For the time being, the search will be conducted without the aid of a hiring firm because Nuñez said his previous experience will help him tap potential candidates.
“This is one of the areas in my past that I’m gonna use to our benefit: Having a basketball background having been a former coach in Division I, I have a lot of resources that I can use,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez said his focus for the search will consider integrity, player development, culture fit and head coaching experience, though he didn’t rule out hiring an assistant coach.
According to Nuñez, the budget for the new head coach is about the same as Weir’s, who made $775,000 this year, but added that "we may have to get creative" and agree to a back-loaded contract.
Weir’s buyout clause initially called for the University to settle for either one payment of $700,000 or two $350,000 payments, but Nuñez said that a settlement was reached between the University and Weir.
The new buyout, the third golden parachute in five long years for UNM Athletics after the dismissals of football coach Bob Davie ($825,000, 2019) and men’s basketball head coach Craig Neal ($1 million, 2017), will be $490,000 paid in two installments over the next two fiscal years. UNM will also pay NMSU $100,000 over the next two years as part of Weir’s previous buyout with the Aggies.
The money for Weir’s buyout was collected through private funds, according to Nuñez, who also implied that multiple individuals offered to pitch in to support the program financially.
Nuñez didn’t elaborate on who gave UNM the private funds, only saying: “We had some conversations with individuals that had offered the opportunity to help if necessary, if it ever got to this point.”
Nuñez also said that the transaction will only be noted within the Athletics budget and not the campus’ finances as a whole.
This accounting decision is notable, as the last men’s basketball buyout of Neal for $1 million was transferred over to the main campus budget and not paid for by the Athletics department.
The reaction to Weir’s firing was swift, as Lobos across the country went to Twitter to voice their opinions.
Kenn Rodriguez, a New Mexico sportswriter, speculated that the Lobos might contact Chris Jans, who is the current head coach at NMSU.
Others, such as Iliana Limón Romero, lamented the move.
“Paul Weir seemed like a super nice guy who faced a lot of hurdles during his tenure. Too bad it didn't work out at New Mexico,” Limón Romero wrote.
Rohin Vaidya said he wasn’t surprised by the decision but felt Weir wasn’t given a chance to truly demonstrate his talents.
“I still think Weir never really got a fair shot at a season other than his first one, where UNM lost in the MW championship game,” Vaidya said. “Hope he gets another shot as a HC somewhere soon, but it certainly was time for both sides to hit the restart button.”
But some, like Lee Montgomery, an associate professor teaching experimental art and technology, felt the money that would be spent on a new head coach should be reinvested in the University and its students instead.
“Time to put that money into education,” Montgomery said.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @SpencerButler48