By: Derek Gonzales
Last May, New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia hired Paul Weir as the 25th head coach in men’s basketball history, replacing Marvin Menzies, who left the program after nine years to take the head coaching position at UNLV. Weir was made a finalist immediately as soon as the Menzies’ departure was official, and though Moccia conducted a thorough national search, those in the community and close to the program, including current and former players, wanted Weir all along. Here are a couple of reasons why the Weir hire was the right choice for the program.
Weir Will Revitalize a Stale Fanbase
It is no secret that attendance in the Pan American Center has plummeted in recent years. The team’s lack of success in non-conference play, coupled with the slow-paced offenses that Menzies had after his third season made for unentertaining basketball that Aggie fans did not take interest in watching. It also hurts that conference opponents coming to Las Cruces are now almost unrecognizable. Playing Chicago State and UMKC in conference play is a far cry from when the Aggies would play Utah State, Boise State, and Nevada. (sometimes on ESPN) That’s not a coaching staff problem. It’s an athletic department problem that Moccia will have to address, but it has definitely impacted attendance. In 2007 (Reggie Theus’ second season), New Mexico State ranked 57th in the nation in attendance at 9,413 fans per game. (Pan American Center capacity is 12,572) In the most recent ncaa.org document in 2014, NMSU ranked 89th in attendance with 5,948 per game. Weir has the charisma and fire that can rally Las Crucens into the Pan Am, and his introductory press conference showed that. As Weir began to speak, he had to pause a few times to fight back the emotions because he appreciates the work it took to have the opportunity. He is blue-collar, as he began climbing the ladder at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Weir then went to the University of Iowa as the director of basketball operations under current UCLA coach Steve Alford before landing in Las Cruces. “I mopped floors, worked concession stands, and mowed lawns to hopefully, one day, stand at a podium like this and realize a dream.” Weir has worked for this, and Aggie fans should, at the least, relate to the hard work and passion Paul Weir brings to the program.
Weir is Home-Grown
Paul Weir was only in his late-twenties when he arrived to NMSU in 2007. He met his wife in Las Cruces, he bought his first home here, and has a master’s degree from NMSU. He began as the program’s daily operation manager, but quickly moved to the bench after a year. After three seasons as an assistant under Marvin Menzies, he was appointed the associate head coach in 2011. When the news came out of the staff changes, Menzies said of Weir, “This move was well earned by Paul. He will have a very successful head coaching career someday.” Four years later, the job is now his.
Weir is Breath of Fresh Air
During Menzies’ nine seasons in Las Cruces, his overall record was 198-111. He won four consecutive WAC Championships from 2012-2015 and led NMSU to the postseason in six out of his nine seasons. A problem with Menzies seemed to be that the program plateaued. His last five seasons saw the team post records of 26-10, 24-11, 26-10, 23-11 and 23-11. During that time, he went 2-8 against New Mexico, while the Lobos were a Mountain West powerhouse under Steve Alford and came back down to Earth under Craig Neal. Aggie fans grew tired of losing to UNM, and UTEP hasn’t been an impressive program in years. Menzies was unable to connect to Aggie fans. His lack of energy on the sideline and unwillingness to go out on a limb with the media to fire up fans for an opponent caused the Pan Am to grow emptier as his tenure wore on. Weir has that fire, as he could be seen yelling at his team to sharpen up defensively in the past. He is not afraid of picking up technical fouls, and his fire will be something that his players will eventually pick up, unlike the always mellow Menzies. He has said he wants tougher players, and he is moving a program in a direction that will hopefully amount his team just no longer allowing UNM to come into the Pan American Center and win.
The program is in great hands. Paul Weir understands New Mexico State basketball, and he also understands Las Cruces. He will do what it takes to revive the program and to knock the dust off of Pan American seats that have been a little too empty for a little too long. We all will soon have a reason to bring out our inner “Panamaniac” soon enough.