By Daniel Libit
It’s over. Even if it’s not over yet. Even if it might not be over for a while — that surely has less to do with the man in question than the exigencies of his situation.
Craig Neal’s problems as a college basketball coach have by now become self-evident: the mounting losses, for starters, but really the entire package — the cockeyed public statements; the scapegoating; the sophistry; the pretense; the lack of discipline; the thin skin (that’s worse than Steve Alford’s, if that’s possible).
At New Mexico, Neal has presided over a staff that has been in a perpetual state of flux; over successive teams in retrograde; and over a son who was compelled to transfer out of his father’s program. It is a testament to many uncomfortable truths (about the New Mexico Lobos, yes, but also about college athletics, in general) that Neal has been able to noodle himself into his high-paying, state-subsidized job, with so little contingent accountability. And the picture does not get prettier once the curtain is lifted.
“Craig Neal, known affectionately across the nation as ‘Noodles’…,” reads the head coach’s official bio on GoLobos.com. But that kind of praise tells only a part of the story.
Despite Neal’s semblance of fair-haired, Indianan affability, NMFishbowl.com has found, he has also left a long trail of rancor and recriminations in his path as he voraciously careered from Toronto, to Iowa City, to Albuquerque.
This story is based, in part, on two dozen interviews with sources who have known Neal at various stages of his career — including coaches, players, parents, boosters, pro executives and administrators. In many cases, the sources agreed to talk only on the condition they not be identified, in order to speak candidly. Through a UNM Athletics spokesperson, Neal declined to be interviewed for this story, or respond to a detailed list of questions addressing the various claims made about him here. Continue reading “The Comeuppance of Craig Neal”