Gargling with warm salt water before you hop out of your car might help.
Maybe massage your throat or vigorously hum a few bars of your favorite song.
Whatever it takes to loosen those vocal cords as you pull your ride into The Pit parking lot Tuesday night, do it. The much anticipated return of Steve Alford and Craig Neal is going to test your limits.
Just be selective about who you decide to yell at. One guy deserves it, the other should actually get a warm ovation.
If we’re being honest here, you’re still bitter about Alford ripping your Lobo heart out and throwing it aside like it never really mattered to him. He left you at the altar. He dumped you for someone better. He earned your trust and wrecked you, teaching you a valuable lesson that making yourself vulnerable for the sake of winning just isn’t worth it.
Like the prom date who danced with someone else or the award winner who never mentioned you in their acceptance speech, you feel betrayed, hurt and broken. Totally understandable, all of it.
Until Danny Gonzales rolled along two months ago, Alford was the biggest splash hire UNM has had in any sport in years — maybe ever. When former athletic director Paul Krebs coaxed him away from the Big Ten, people were practically shouting it from Sandia Peak because they’d landed Bobby Knight’s golden boy, the one with the perfect hair, even better jump shot and all those glorious basketball roots, like an Olympic gold medal and a national title.
He built the Lobos into a ferocious winner, preaching defense and mental toughness. Then the school literally allowed him to put his fingerprints on the blueprints of The Pit’s massive $60 million renovation, essentially turning the building into his vision of what a modern gym should look like.
Just when the gettin’ got good and he’d put his name on a 10-year contract extension, he destroyed you in the span of just a few days by first coaching the third-seeded Lobos to a stunning and soul-crushing loss to Harvard in the NCAA Tournament, then announcing he’d accepted UCLA’s offer to become the latest Wizard of Westwood.
Fine, be hurt. Maybe roll your eyes when he walks down the ramp just minutes before the tip knowing karma paid him back with a failed run with the Bruins.
While you’re at it, pay respect to the man for giving you a taste of Camelot and then justifiably leaving for a blue-blood program none of us would have refused. Give him his due and say thanks for everything he did. Lobo basketball literally hasn’t been the same since he left and barring a major shift, it might not get back there for years to come.
If you’re feeling the need to boo and hiss, cast your watery eyes at the guy sitting next to him. Craig Neal, his UNM successor and the good cop to his bad all those years, is the guy who took what had been the foundation of Alford’s happy place and burned it to the ground.
Embraced as the loyal Lobo for turning down Alford’s offer to be his right-hand man at UCLA, Neal stayed behind and led the Lobos to 27 wins and a trip to the NCAA Tournament in his first year.
If we’re being real, that year never did feel right. The Lobos returned four of their five starters and had, on paper, a team that could have been — should have been — so much better. Then came the opening-round NCAA loss to Stanford and UNM hasn’t been to any kind of postseason tournament ever since.
Neal’s tenure was littered by finger-pointing excuses and unfulfilled expectations. Not even Neal’s own son could stand being here; Cullen Neal transferred out because things were so toxic.
Then came the humiliating collapse to Nevada on Jan. 7, 2017, a loss that had to be seen to be believed. Neal was fired 10 weeks later and current coach Paul Weir was hired shortly thereafter.
Things haven’t gotten markedly better and the memory of UNM having to shell out $1 million just to fire Noodles are still fresh. Making matters worse, he’s now Alford’s loyal lapdog at the school that forever destroyed his reputation in New Mexico.
If it makes you feel better, go ahead and rain down those boos and turn those thumbs upside down because, let’s face it, this year’s Lobos are a dumpster fire and the season is mercifully nearing its anticlimactic end — and making matters worse is the idea of looking up at Alford and Neal in the standings, knowing full well it will be that way for years to come.
Just be sure the guy you’re giving the business to is the one who truly deserves it.