ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An emotional Craig Neal called Wednesday one of the happiest days of his life outside the birth of his two sons.
Five days after former Head Coach Steve Alford stunned Loboland by decamping for UCLA, Neal was officially introduced as the new leader of the men's basketball.
Neal hopes to continue the success the Lobos have had the last six years by making a few changes to the offense.
In front of a packed house he let his supporters know that he hopes to speed up the offense and maybe even press a little on defense.
Handling the offense was Neal's job under Alford, but this time around Neal will have the final say.
It looks like the Lobos will also still have the players they need to execute the offense. Neal recruited all of them and says he doesn't think any of current players will leave the program.
When talking about the opportunity he now has as head coach, Neal took time to remember the man who helped put him in position.
"I would like to thank the guy that brought me here six years ago who has done more for this program than any coach in the history of this program," Neal said as he began to tear up. "He's been a friend of mine since third grade. It's very hard,"
As far as a staff goes, Neal has another assistant to hire but is keeping Craig Snow, Drew Adams and Brandon Mason.
Neal's deal is considerably less than what Alford would have been paid under the agreement he signed a few days before he took off, but it's still pretty good
Neal's five-year contract calls for a base of $750,000 s a year.
It has incentives that could push that higher for things like the team's academic performance, winning the Mountain West tournament and getting to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
The agreement that Alford made two weeks ago had a base of a $1.25 million a year and incentives that could take that to nearly $2 million.
Neal has never been a head coach before, but he has an impressive résumé. As a player he was an Indiana high school all star, and in college he led the nation in assists as point guard for Georgia Tech in the 1980s.
He played in the NBA and then was a scout and an assistant coach for the NBA's Toronto Raptors.
He's been Alford's right-hand man for nine years, first at Iowa and then here.
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