Feb. 1, 2011
The University of New Mexico men's basketball coaching staff will be well represented in the Elite 8 of the Skip Prosser "Shots From The Heart" national free throw contest, as both head coach Steve Alford and associate head coach Craig Neal have advanced out of the Sweet 16. Alford defeated Ed Conroy of Tulane 31-29, while Neal advanced on a tiebreaker after he and Erik Konkol of George Mason tied 29-29.
Alford is one of two coaches who is a perfect 75-for-75 in the competition, and so far the only head coach to be perfect (assistant coach Carmen Maciariello of Fairfield is the other). Alford has defeated Kermit Davis of Middle Tennessee State (31-30), Pat Knight of Texas Tech (31-26) and now Conroy. He will advance to take on the winner of the matchup between Tubby Smith of Minnesota and the Mayor, Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State. Smith is 47-of-50 in the tournament, and Hoiberg has a chance to join Alford as he is a perfect 50-for-50 so far.
For Neal, the Sweet Sixteen matchup was tougher, as he and Konkol each went 23-for-25, and each scored 29 points. The tiebreaker was consecutive free throws in the round, and Neal hit his first 12 shots, while Konkol only strung together 11. Neal defeated Creighton's Steve Merfield 30-27 in the opening round and Stephen F. Austin's Kellen Sampson 31-30 in the second round. Neal will now face off with a Lobo name from the past, as he will battle former Lobo head coach Ritchie McKay, who is an assistant at Virginia.
"The idea was to create awareness for heart disease through competition," says CollegeInsider.com co-founder Angela Lento. "We wanted to create something that coaches could have fun with. The fun but competitive nature of this event is something that I am sure coach Prosser would have enjoyed."
Skip Prosser spent 21 years as collegiate head coach at Loyola (MD), Xavier and Wake Forest. He made 18 postseason appearances and is the only coach in NCAA history to take three separate schools to the NCAA Tournament in his first year coaching the teams. In 2008 CollegeInsider.com created the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award, which is given annually to the coach who not only achieves success on the basketball court but who also displays moral integrity off the court as well.
The Lobos are getting ready to face off with Air Force on Tuesday night in the final game of the first round of conference play. New Mexico is 15-7 overall and 3-4 in the Mountain West Conference. Fans can follow the season-long event at www.collegeinsider.com/shots