ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico is looking to fill its men's basketball head coaching vacancy as soon as possible but Lobos athletic director Paul Krebs is not providing any names of potential candidates or a specific hiring timeline.
"I know there are probably a lot of names," Krebs said of a replacement for Craig Neal, who was fired late Friday night after four years at the school. "The best way to conduct a search is to do it in as quiet a way as possible. You don't want to lose candidates. You don't want people who may have current jobs to pull themselves out of availability because it compromises their position if their name gets out."
Still, as member of the NCAA basketball committee, Krebs was visible throughout the Final Four weekend in Arizona and was able to hear from a number of coaches or their representatives.
"What I can tell you is that the interest is real," he said. "It is significant. There are a number of sitting Division I head coaches that have expressed interest. What we are trying to do at this point is focus on who we think fits our profile the best and move forward as quickly as possible without rushing our decision."
The combination of strong attendance, previous success and a well-known facility that was the host site for the 1983 Final Four makes the New Mexico job an attractive one, Krebs said.
"What also attracts people is the opportunity to be the best in your league," he said. "And we have shown consistently over time that we can and are one of the best programs in our league. Coaches want to go places where they can win. Where they can win and win championships."
Krebs said he will be looking for a coach with previous experience.
"You have to have somebody that can develop talent," Krebs said. "We're not necessarily going to get the four- or five-star players necessarily. ... He needs to be an outstanding recruiter. And I think it's important, in my particular interest at this time is somebody that's a proven head coach, either currently a head coach or have a track record of having been a head coach at some point. We need somebody that has had proven success and can minimize the risk."
Neal joined the New Mexico program 10 years ago, acting as Steve Alford's associate head coach. When Alford left for UCLA, Neal took over.
He led the Lobos to a conference tournament championship and the NCAA Tournament in his first season, losing in the first round. In each of the subsequent seasons, the Lobos were eliminated from the conference tournament in the first game and did not make the NCAA or NIT tournaments. Neal finished with a 76-52 overall record.