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New Mexico officially names Craig Neal head coach

Apr 2, 2013, 8:41 PM EDT

Craig Neal AP

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Remove the “interim” tag from his title.

New Mexico officially announced Tuesday that longtime assistant and short-time interim head coach Craig Neal will take over the program after the departure of Steve Alford to UCLA.

It will be announced to the public Wednesday at a press conference.

Neal had coached alongside Alford at New Mexico for six seasons. Prior to his time with the Lobos, he was on the bench with Alford at Iowa. Neal also has experience as an assistant coach at the NBA level with the Toronto Raptors. He had emerged as a top candidate to replace Alford on a full-time basis since the time of Alford’s decision to head to Westwood.

Neal now inherits a team that returns nearly all major pieces from its Mountain West title team this season with the exception of Tony Snell. The decision to hire Neal on a full-time basis puts New Mexico in a better position to keep center Alex Kirk, who reportedly said that he would transfer if any coach other than Neal was brought into the program.

New Mexico finished 29-6 this past season, including 13-3 in the MWC. The Lobos lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Harvard.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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