Craig Neal named coach at New Mexico

USA TODAY Sports

New Mexico has replaced head coach Steve Alford with Craig Neal.

Craig Neal has been named the head coach at New Mexico, according to CBS Sports. Neal was Steve Alford's top assistant there and was tabbed as the favorite to get the top job when Alford left the Lobos for UCLA last week.

Many of the Lobos' players made it clear that they wanted Neal to take over after Alford left and, according to Jeff Goodman, center Alex Kirk went as far as to tell New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs that he would transfer to UCLA if Neal didn't get the job.

Neal was the top assistant under Alford and took the lead on a lot of the Lobos' recruiting efforts. He developed close ties with a lot of the players and if the Lobos didn't hire him, he would have likely taken a job at UCLA with Alford, for whom he coached at Iowa as well as at New Mexico.

The New Mexico gig will be Neal's first head coaching job, although he did spend nine years as an assistant with Alford and worked as an assistant coach and scout for the Toronto Raptors in the last 1990s and early 2000s. Prior to joining the Raptors' coaching staff, Neal worked as a scout for the Raptors and had a long professional career that saw him play in the NBA, CBA, USBL and WBL.

New Mexico will lose Tony Snell from this year's team after the junior announced he would be leaving for the NBA, but Kendall Williams and Kirk both return from a team that went 29-6 last season and won the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles before falling in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed.

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