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Coaching Moves The Talk Of The Off-Season

Albuquerque Journal, Mark Smith

March Madness is never confined to the court. Or March, for that matter.

While the college basketball season ended Monday night in New Orleans, it continues off the floor as coaches scramble to fit all the pieces together of the college hoop puzzle.

When one coach resigns or is fired, it sets off a chain reaction around the country. Not only does a recently vacated head position need to be filled, but each new head coach also needs a new staff. That touches off the dash for cash, and advancement in the industry.

The New Mexico men’s basketball staff has at least two guys — associate head coach Craig Neal and assistant Ryan Miller — who are part of the puzzle these days.

Neal interviewed at Central Michigan last week and is slated to interview with Colorado State this week. Miller’s immediate coaching future could depend on what shakes with Neal and other jobs in the industry.

“It’s nice to hear my name mentioned in the speculation out there, but right now I’m focused on helping develop our players at New Mexico,” said Miller, who was in New Orleans on Monday to watch close friend John Calipari and Kentucky play Kansas in the title game.

Miller coached three years under Calipari at Memphis.

Both Neal and Miller have been on Steve Alford’s staff the past five seasons at New Mexico. Neal was also with Alford for three seasons at Iowa.

The Lobos have gone 125-46 with two NCAA Tournament appearances in their five years under Alford, opening doors for Neal and Miller to be on the short list at other schools.

Neal says he’s not going to comment on being a candidate or interviewing for jobs.

“That’s just a credit to the success that coach Alford’s had with the program here,” Neal said Monday. “Our names have been thrown out there for other jobs, and that’s just a credit to what he’s done with the program the last five years.”

On the move

There have been a number of big-name schools that have changed coaches in recent weeks. Illinois fired Bruce Weber, who was hired at Kansas State after the Wildcats’ Frank Martin left K-State for the head spot at South Carolina.

John Groce left Ohio to take the Illinois job and Jim Christian bolted from TCU to take over at Ohio.

In other high-profile jobs, Nebraska fired Doc Sadler and hired Colorado State’s Tim Miles. CSU is still in the hiring process.

With each new hire, comes a new staff. For a guy like Miller, who has made numerous collegiate connections in his nine years as an assistant, there could be a lot of offers.

Or there might not be any.

If Neal gets another head coaching spot, Miller would likely move up to associate head coach on Alford’s staff. But if Neal doesn’t leave, that doesn’t end possibilities for Miller.

Multiple coaches have told me that Miles has been in contact with Miller for a possible job at Nebraska, and both CSU assistants Craig Smith and Niko Medved — who are interviewing for the Rams head job today — have talked with Miller about possibly becoming an assistant at CSU, if either get that job.

Miller was recruited by, and played for, Miles at Northern State University (Aberdeen, S.D.). Smith was a graduate assistant at the school when Miller played there.

Miles also coached Miller’s brother, Jared, at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Thus, if either of the guys on CSU’s Craigs’ list are hired — Neal or Smith — multiple positions will likely open for Miller.

But if the Rams go with another candidate, like St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap, that could close some doors for Miller.

Miles is waiting to announce his new staff at Nebraska, but will likely bring Smith and Medved with him if neither is hired as CSU’s new head coach.

In the meantime, Miller says he’s concentrating on the job at hand.

“I’m happy for coach Miles, and there are possibilities that some of my friends and colleagues might get jobs,” Miller said. “But right now, I’m focused on recruiting and developing our current players for the future.”


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