Turns out having free time isn’t as free as it seems.
Dismissed as the University of New Mexico’s men’s basketball coach before the end of the season, Paul Weir hasn’t strayed too far from his Albuquerque home over the past few months. In those early days of unemployment, he figured he’d do all the things most do when contemplating oodles of free time.
“Gosh, I thought it was going to be reading books, reflecting, doing yoga cross-legged — I had this vision of what it was going to look like, it hasn’t been that way at all,” Weir said during a Zoom call with local media Tuesday afternoon.
Weir was recently named the head coach of the Canadian Junior National team, which he will lead into the FIBA U-19 Basketball World Cup next month in Lithuania. With COVID-19 restrictions still air tight in Canada, the team will train in Orlando, Fla., before departing for pre-tournament play in Latvia later this month.
Since his exit from UNM, he has forgone the cross-legged yoga in favor of a few family trips. He’s also dabbled in the local radio market, working as an afternoon host on the drive-time show on KQTM-FM 101.7 alongside station General Manager Joe O’Neill.
Weir said he spent time talking to former Lobos coach Fran Fraschilla. After his dismissal as UNM’s coach in 2002, Fraschilla walked away from coaching and got into broadcasting as an analyst with ESPN. Nearly 20 years down the road, he’s one of the most respected college basketball personalities on the air.
“I’ve talked to Fran about it,” Weir said. “I don’t want to sit here and say that’s definitely what I’m doing. I’m intrigued by it, I’m interested in it. I think it’s a possibility but I love teaching.”
Weir’s broadcasting experiment began humbly enough. He was a color commentator for high school basketball broadcasts on KQTM when he wasn’t in the studio with O’Neill.
As O’Neill can attest, one of the hot-button issues for any radio call-in sports show around these parts is UNM athletics, particularly Lobos basketball. Weir has carefully sidestepped most of those discussions, choosing to stay neutral when possible, positive when necessary.
“I don’t know if anything I say has any consequence or impact,” Weir said. “But they keep asking me back so I’m going to keep doing that and kinda see where that goes.”
He said he remains a fan of UNM basketball and has no hard feelings about the way things ended. In March he announced he had accepted an abbreviated buyout for the remaining two years of his contract, agreeing to a payout that allows him to collect roughly half a million dollars over the next two years.
The school made a splash hire in his wake, bringing in Richard Pitino from his post at Minnesota in the Big Ten. All the while, Weir has been positive in every way possible.
“You’re not going to find a bigger fan than me,” he said. “I told all the staff when I left, all the players when I left, like, ‘Please stay. Give this a chance, I hope it works out.’ ”
It’s a far cry from the situation Weir inherited when he took over at UNM in 2017. Hired in the weeks after Craig Neal had been fired, Weir said the aura around the program back then was bitterness and a feeling of uncooperative communication.
“It wasn’t always pleasant, and it wasn’t always helpful,” Weir said. “The last thing I would ever want to be is not helpful to whoever this next person, coach, players, staff are. Anything I can do to ever be of assistance, I offered it up when I left. It’s still there.”
Weir’s post as Canada’s U-19 coach could be a springboard into his next move, whatever that may be. He said he doesn’t necessarily want to hold out for a college head coaching job, instead keeping all options open. Those include the possibility of teaching.
One of the jobs he’s had since leaving the Lobos is teaching a class at UNM’s Anderson School of Management, a post he’s willing to continue if the conditions remain ideal. If not, the international experience he’ll get in Europe could well lead to a stint as an NBA assistant or scout, possibly a front office position.
Then, of course, there are jobs in the private sector, the media or in the college game. All options are open at the moment.
“I’ve been a lot busier than I ever imagine or intended to be,” Weir said, saying much of his focus has been on his wife and two young sons. “Where that goes from here, I don’t know. It’s a really cool place to be not quite knowing what’s next but having a lot of different options and opportunities.”