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McKay Canned

February 22, 2007

University of New Mexico Men’s Basketball coach, Ritchie McKay, will leave the team at the end of this season. Poor performances during regular season and post season (the Lobos never won a post season game under McKay), the decline in attendance and resulting loss of revenue are all factors that contributed to today’s announcement. McKay had one standout season, in 2004-2005 forward Danny Granger Jr. carried the Lobos to a 26-6 record, Mountain West Conference Championship, and first round exit from the NCAA Tournament.

So who will replace Coach McKay?

The hot name at the moment is Mike Montgomery. Montgomery coach at Stanford where he took the Trees (Stanford has no official mascot) to 10 straight tournament appearances and left in 2004 as the winningest basketball coach in school history. Prior to UNM’s vacancy there was word he might be a candidate for the University of Santa Clara University job. Montgomery left Stanford to pursue coaching the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

The other name that is going to get a lot of talk is UNM basketball legend Michael Cooper. Cooper is currently the head coach of the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, NBA D-League Champions, 2006. Cooper also coached the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks to championships in 2000 and 2001. Cooper helped the Los Angeles Lakers win championships in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988. Cooper is a prime candidate not just for a college coaching job, but also as a coach in the NBA. Landing Cooper at UNM would be like landing Reggie Theus at NMSU—oh, wait, NMSU did land Reggie Theus. Cooper could happen.

Two other coaches I like include former Mizzou coach Quin Snyder (baggage) and former UCLA coach Steve Lavin (plumb ESPN gig). I’m not sure if UNM will make any effort to contact either coach, but both took their teams deep into the tournament (OK so Lavin couldn’t get past the Sweet Sixteen, but when was the last time the Lobos got to the Sweet Sixteen?) and both are proven recruiters. I’d like to see UNM athletic director Paul Krebs tap those fellow on the shoulder.

UPDATE: Richard Stevens of the ABQ Tribune has a few great names to add to the list of possible replacements. Somehow I can’t imagine Majerus coaching cherry and silver, but Mark Fox, now there is coach we need to get on line one.

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