Craig Neal

Craig Duane Neal (born February 16, 1964) is an American basketball coach and former player. He was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the third round (71st pick overall) of the 1988 NBA draft, and played in the NBA and several minor leagues.

Craig Neal
Craig Neal in 2008.jpg
Craig Neal in December 2008 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego
Nevada Wolf Pack
PositionAssistant Head Coach
Personal information
Born (1964-02-16) February 16, 1964 (age 56)
Muncie, Indiana
Listed height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight165 lb (75 kg)
Career information
High schoolWashington (Washington, Indiana)
CollegeGeorgia Tech (1984–1988)
NBA draft1988 / Round: 3 / Pick: 71st overall
Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers
Playing career1988–1995
PositionShooting guard
Number10, 11, 22
Coaching career2000–present
Career history
As player:
1988Jacksonville Hooters
1988–1989Portland Trail Blazers
1989Miami Heat
1989–1990Rapid City Thrillers
1990–1991Columbus Horizon
1991Denver Nuggets
1991Florida Jades
1991–1993Rapid City Thrillers
1993–1994Fort Wayne Fury
1994Omaha Racers
1994–1995Fort Wayne Fury
As coach:
2000–2003Toronto Raptors (asst.)
2004–2007Iowa (asst.)
2007–2013New Mexico (asst.)
2013–2017New Mexico
2019–presentNevada (AHC)
Career highlights and awards
As head coach:

As player:

  • WBL all-star (1991)
Stats at

High schoolEdit

Born and raised in Washington, Indiana, Neal played high school basketball at Washington High School, where his father Stan was head coach. Steve Alford would later employ Neal as an assistant coach. As a senior in 1983, Neal earned all-American and all-state honors.[1]

College playing careerEdit

In 1982, Neal signed with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) to play basketball under Bobby Cremins.[1]

Neal played for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets from 1983 to 1988.[2] Due to a season-ending injury, Neal played only four games in his sophomore season in 1984–85 and took a redshirt that year.[3] As a senior in 1987–88, Neal set the ACC single-season record with 303 assists while averaging a league-best 9.5 assists per game in addition to 7.7 points.[3]

During Neal's time at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets made the 1984 NIT and subsequent NCAA Tournaments he following four years.[3]

Professional playing careerEdit

In the 1988 NBA draft, the Portland Trail Blazers picked Neal in the third round, 71st overall.[4] Neal began his basketball career playing for the Jacksonville Hooters of the USBL.[5] In his rookie NBA season, Neal played 21 games for the Portland Trail Blazers before being waived on January 11, 1989. On February 3, Neal signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat and played 32 games off the bench.[4]

After playing in the CBA in the 1989–90 season, Neal returned to the NBA in 1990 as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls but was released before the regular season. On February 12, 1991, Neal signed with the Denver Nuggets. In 10 games, Neal averaged 12.5 minutes and 4.4 points before being waived on March 3.[4]

Neal later played for the Florida Jades of the World Basketball League in 1991 and was the Most Valuable Player in the 1991 WBL All-Star Game.[6]

Neal served as a player and coach for the Fort Wayne Fury of the CBA in 1994–95.[7]

NBA scouting and coaching careerEdit

In 1996, Neal joined the Toronto Raptors of the NBA as a scout before becoming an assistant coach for the team under Lenny Wilkens in 2000.[3][1] For three years, Neal coached the Raptors' summer league team and led pre-draft workouts for prospects. In the 2003–04 season, Neal was a scout and player development assistant for the Raptors.[3]

College coaching careerEdit


In August 2004, Craig Neal joined long-time friend and head coach Steve Alford at the University of Iowa. Iowa posted a 63-35 record while Neal was the associate-head coach, including consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes won 25 games in 2005-06, the second highest total in school history. They also captured the Big Ten Conference tournament title, set a school record with 10 wins over top 25 opponents and ran off a school record 18-game winning streak in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, winning all 17 home games in 2005-06.[3]

New MexicoEdit

On March 27, 2007, Craig Neal followed Steve Alford to New Mexico and became the associate head coach of the Lobos. In his first year at New Mexico, Craig Neal played an essential role in turning New Mexico into a competitive team. In addition, the Lobos made it into post season play in the NIT for the first time since 2005. In 2010 and 2012, New Mexico reached the NCAA tournament (winning both opening round games). In 2013, New Mexico reached the NCAA tournament as the number 3 seed, losing in the first round to 14th seed Harvard.

On April 2, 2013, New Mexico promoted Neal to head coach,[8] after Alford left to take the head coaching position at UCLA. In Neal's first season as head coach, New Mexico finished 27–7, including 15–3 and second place in the Mountain West Conference. New Mexico beat San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament, finished the season ranked 17th in the AP Poll, and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As a 7 seed in the tournament, New Mexico lost in the Round of 64 to 10 seed Stanford.[9]

However, New Mexico went 15–16 the following year and 17–15 in 2015–16.[10] In 2016–17, New Mexico went 17–14 and marked the first time in the nearly 50-year history of The Pit that home attendance did not rank in the top 25 in Division I.[11] By the end of the season, four players who had eligibility remaining decided to leave the program, including leading scorer Elijah Brown.[11][12]

On March 31, 2017, New Mexico fired Neal 3 weeks after Lobos AD Paul Krebs announced that Neal would return next season.[11] Acting university president Chaouki Abdallah stated: "The decision made late tonight comes after lengthy consideration in light of recent developments that cannot be ignored."[13]

Head coaching recordEdit

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
New Mexico Lobos (Mountain West Conference) (2013–2017)
2013–14 New Mexico 27–7 15–3 2nd NCAA Round of 64
2014–15 New Mexico 15–16 7–11 8th
2015–16 New Mexico 17–15 10–8 T–4th
2016–17 New Mexico 17–14 10–8 5th
New Mexico: 76–52 (.594) 42–30 (.583)
Total: 76–52 (.594)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

Community serviceEdit

Along with his basketball and coaching career, Craig Neal has been a vital member of the community. He has often committed himself to causes greater than oneself, such as he founded the Craig Neal/Grant Delagrange benefit golf tournament in Fort Wayne, IN, with proceeds dedicated to schools for autistic and Down Syndrome children. In addition, while in Toronto Craig Neal was involved with the NBA's Team Up community service program. To this day, Neal continues to give back to the community.[3]


He and his wife, Janet, have two sons, Cullen and Dalton. Basketball is strong in the Neal family. Craig's younger brother Shane Neal lettered four seasons at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He helped pace the Mocs to four straight Southern Conference championships and three straight berths in the NCAA Tournament. His father Stan Neal was a collegiate standout at Ball State.


  1. ^ a b c Grammer, Geoff (June 9, 2013). "Neal gets to make his mark". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  2. ^ "Players: Craig Neal". Sports-Reference CBB. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "2016-17 Men's Basketball Coaching Staff: Craig Neal". University of New Mexico Athletics. Archived from the original on April 2, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Craig Neal". Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  5. ^ Palm Beach Post, June 3, 1988
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Craig Neal". NBA. 2001. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  8. ^ "Craig Neal Named 20th Basketball Coach at New Mexico". University of New Mexico. April 2, 2013. Archived from the original on April 6, 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Craig Neal". SRCBB. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Grammer, Geoff (April 1, 2017). "Neal is out as UNM basketball coach". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  12. ^ "Basketball player Elijah Brown to transfer from UNM". KOB-TV. March 20, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  13. ^ "Craig Neal relieved of duties as men's basketball coach". University of New Mexico. April 1, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017.