Another Southern Indiana basketball product is getting his shot to be a head coach at the Division I level.
Craig Neal, who played his high school ball at Washington High, has been named the head coach at New Mexico. He replaces his former boss, Steve Alford, who left the Lobos for UCLA.
He joins two former Harrison High players Brad Brownell and Chris Lowery as local products who have had shots as D1 head coaches. Brownell is currently coaching at Clemson University. Lowery, who was the head coach at Southern Illinois, is now back working under Bruce Webber at Kansas State.
Neal, who went on to play at Georgia Tech under Bobby Cremins, was the popular choice among New Mexico players and fans to be the next coach after Alford announced he was leaving. He had worked under Alford at New Mexico for six seasons and three years at Iowa.
Athletic director Paul Krebs used Twitter to break the news with a one-word tweet: “Noodles.”
Neal helped Alford guide the Lobos to back-to-back Mountain West Conference titles and three NCAA tournaments. Before being hired by Alford, Neal had been a NBA scout and assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors.
“If you’ve been around the program for the last six years, it’s not hard to understand Coach Neal has had a strong impact on the program,” Krebs said. “Craig is a critical part of the success. I think Craig is an outstanding coach.”
Neal’s five-year contract will be worth $750,000 a year, plus incentives.
Neal played professionally for eight years, including stints in the NBA with Portland, Miami and Denver. He was a third-round draft pick of the Trail Blazers in 1988.
A two-year starter at Georgia Tech in the mid-1980s, Neal earned all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors as a senior in 1988.