ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Former New Mexico State basketball coach Neil McCarthy was many things to many people. To William Benjamin, Coach McCarthy was loyal. Benjamin, by his own admission, said he was very immature during his time as a guard at NMSU, from 1988 to 1992.
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Despite Benjamin’s immaturity, McCarthy always stuck with him, loving him through all the ups and downs. McCarthy, known for speaking his mind whether good or bad, was a good fit for Benjamin and taught him how to be true to himself. “You know, one thing I take from Neil is that if you going to be who you are, you be who you are,” said Benjamin. “When you are going to do it your way, you do it your way, you know, regardless of what people say about you. And, you know, I think I use that in my coaching.”
Benjamin is the boys’ basketball coach at Las Cruces High School. The phone rang late at the Benjamin household Saturday night. Benjamin did not want to answer because he had a feeling it was bad news about his former coach. McCarthy had been in poor health and the call was coming from his wife Vivian. Benjamin answered the call and what he feared had indeed come true, his former coach had died.
Benjamin has many memories of his time with McCarthy. The two kept in touch all those years after their time together on a basketball court. Their last conversation was about basketball. It was about the match-up zone that McCarthy used to beat many opponents back in the day. Benjamin decided to use it with his own team. “I could hear the excitement in his voice when I told him I ran it and we won a state tournament,” said Benjamin. “And, vintage Neil, you know, he said you would have won a couple more if you would have ran it more. You know, that’s Neil. You know, that’s Neil and I’m going to miss that cat a lot man.”
McCarthy was head coach at NMSU from 1985 to 1997. McCarthy’s record at NMSU of 248 wins is second to the late great Lou Henson at the school. McCarthy led the Aggies to the sweet 16 in 1992, but that and 22 victories were vacated by the NCAA due to academic fraud. McCarthy was 81 years old.