Sports Desk: Rocky Long returns to New Mexico; Granger remembers Kobe

FOX New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Rocky Long is headed back to New Mexico as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under new coach Danny Gonzales. The news has Lobo fans excited and comes on Long’s 70th birthday.

Long and Gonzales’ relationship spans over 20 years. With Long in the mix, Gonzales, who is in his first head coaching job at New Mexico, has someone to lean on for experience running the show.

“I mean, I can lean on him if there is stuff that comes up that he’d dealt with, issues that we might have as head coach that I’ve never had to deal with before,” said Gonzales.

Long stepped down from his head coaching job at San Diego State earlier this month after leading the Aztecs to a 10-3 season that included a bowl victory. Long led the Aztecs to nine consecutive bowl games and three Mountain West Conference Championships.

The three-time Mountain West Coach of the Year has more victories than anyone in the league. While at New Mexico, Long led the Lobos to 7 bowl eligible seasons and ended a 46-year drought of winning in a bowl game when his team won the New Mexico Bowl in 2007.

Former and current players continue to share memories of Kobe Bryant, who along with his daughter and seven others were killed in a plane crash in California on Sunday. Former Indiana Pacers and Lobos star Danny Granger remembers guarding the Los Angeles Lakers legend. It was a painful task that the two joked about later in life.

“He did a cross over and elbowed me in my two front teeth at a 45-degree angle back into my gum line,” said Granger. “Worst pain I ever had. After the game, the dentist had me held down in the dentist’s chair and they pulled my teeth back in place. I couldn’t chew literally for like a month. I said, ‘Kobe, I know you did that on purpose.’ He didn’t even know what I was talking about. He was just playing.”

Lobos class of 2020 forward Bayron Matos kept his word about coming to school early and participated in his first practice on Monday. The question is whether he will try to play the remainder of this season or redshirt.

“It is his decision at the end of the day,” said UNM basketball coach Paul Weir. “I’m trying to provide some guidance on what a good decision might be. I’d be lying if I said I think he probably should redshirt, but I think he’s excited. He’s a young man that has confidence in himself.”

The Lobos are hosting nationally-ranked San Diego State on Wednesday.

The New Mexico State Aggies and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will meet on the football field twice in 2021. They already had a game scheduled for September 25, 2021, in Las Cruces. Both parties agreed to add another game to be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu on October 23, 2021.

Cleveland High freshman Leah Futey is the Gatorade New Mexico Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Futey captured the 5A state title this past season, outlasting her closest competitor by 19 seconds.

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