Weir is right to be frustrated, and pressure will only increase

December 14, 2018

And there it is. That’s the Lobo pressure cooker we know all too well.

Like a parishioner hanging out in St. Peter’s Square anticipating the white smoke, many a Lobo basketball observer has been waiting for this to happen; for the weight of bloated and often unrealistic expectations of UNM men’s basketball to consume its head coach.

Didn’t happen last year, not when the entire incoming recruiting class and two of the most talented freshmen the program has seen in a while said adios when Paul Weir was named Lobo boss.

Didn’t happen during a 3-8 start that bled into January before the team’s first road win.

Didn’t happen last spring when several players left the program, including one (more on him in a minute) who is somehow seeing his stock among the all-time greats continue to rise now that his replacements seem to lack the heart that make him such a fan favorite.

On Tuesday night, it finally happened. After blowing a 17-point lead at home to Colorado, Weir’s frustration boiled over when he cut short his postgame Q&A with the media and stormed out with the classic parting shot of, “I’m done.”

It was a sign-off playfully repeated moments later when senior Dane Kuiper wrapped up his four minutes with the media with an, “I’m outta here.”

Fans have questioned the validity of Weir’s theatrics, some comparing it to UNM Board of Regents president Robert Doughty pounding his fists on the table during a March regents meeting to consider the school’s hemorrhaging athletics budget. It felt as though his next move was to swipe everything off the table and glare ahead with bloodshot eyes, Hollywood style.

Doughty might well have done it for show, but it’s entirely possible Weir’s sign of frustration is legit. His team is 4-4 with three straight losses; two by blowout and the CU loss after yacking up a comfortable lead by doing the two things Weir hates more than just about anything. His Lobos were lazy on defense in the second half and, what’s worse, seemed to wad up the offensive game plan and toss it in the trash by having one or two guys at a time improvise during dry spells.

Has Weir lost the team? Probably not, but at 4-4 the Lobos are clearly underperforming considering the wealth of talent on the roster. The addition of 6-10 center Carlton Bragg, a former McDonald’s All-American who started his career at Kansas, merely amplifies the expectations going into the weekend.

This team, on paper, is the second- or third-best group in the Mountain West and the second- or third-best team in that conference doesn’t lose by 35 in Las Cruces or get embarrassed by 25 by Saint Mary’s. And it certainly doesn’t blow a huge lead in The Pit to a team that will probably finish in the middle of the Pac-12.

Start 3-8 your rookie year as a Lobo and lean on Joe Furstinger as the go-to guy? No big deal because Furstinger, who spent his entire UNM career as the goofy big man whose heart was 10 times bigger than his talent, became the soul Weir was looking for. He and several current players still talk about Big Joe’s influence to this day.

As talented as Bragg and Vance Jackson, Corey Manigault and Keith Magee appear to be, they’re clearly lacking that Furstinger intangible and that, for what it’s worth, led Weir to walk out with an, “I’m done.”

Weir has every right to be frustrated, but if he has a hard time disguising it in front of John Q Public then that’s the least surprising news of the day. He has never had to deal with adversity or dysfunctionality quite like this.

His first year as a college assistant was with a team that won 21 games, then he was on Steve Alford’s staff at Iowa when the Hawkeyes won a Big Ten title. The 10 years he spent at NMSU included a laundry list of success, and his first year at UNM afforded him the built-in mulligan of lovable underdog.

The party’s over. The school needs him to win. The community demands that he win.

He was given a year to get things back on track and, right now, he’s out of free passes.

Welcome to the pressure cooker, coach. There is no offseason for Lobo basketball, a place where 4-4 won’t be good enough ever again.

Will Webber’s commentary about sports in Northern New Mexico can be seen each week in our section. To discuss Lobo hoops, prep sports or anything in between, contact him at wwebber@sfnewmexican.com.

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