Sports

Paul Weir delivering in first year as NMSU head coach

NMSU's Paul Weir succeeding in first...

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Paul Weir is a numbers guy, and he knows the odds weren't in his favor to become a head coach at the NCAA level. But he was willing to do whatever it took just to have a chance.

"I mowed lawns, and mopped floors, and worked concessions to one day hopefully stand at a podium like this," Weir said when he was introduced as the head coach of the NMSU men's basketball team back in April.

Despite the long odds, after nine seasons as an assistant, Weir took over the head coaching position, and the team hasn't looked back since.

Weir has guided NMSU to a 15-2 record and has led the Aggies to 13 straight wins. 

So what's his secret?  Moneyball.

Yes, like the movie in which Jonah Hill's character provides Brad Pitt with intricate stats to help turn around the struggling Oakland A's. 

Weir admits he doesn't have much in common with Brad Pitt, but he has certainly found his Jonah Hill - and his name is Jordan Sperber. 

"It's funny, I don't mind being called a nerd or a stat geek," said Sperber, who heads up the NMSU video and stats operation.

"Moneyball" is another way of saying "analytics," a field of study encompassing advanced statistics in multiple sports, adopted by some coaches and shunned by others.

"From my perspective what it is to me is a lot of different numbers and a lot of different platforms that allow us to look at things and help in our decision-making processes," said Weir.

Brad Stevens, who led Butler to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA National Championship game, was one of the first college basketball coaches to rely heavily on analytics, utilizing information on player usage, plus/minus, and efficiency ratings.

In general, advanced statistics don't just chart who scores and rebounds with the highest frequency, but who affects the game the most and gives his team the greatest edge over a particular opponents.  Often, a player's full contributions won't show up in a typical "box score," which is where analytics comes in.

"It's the way we look at our players and their efficiencies, both on offense and defense and then the opponents we play and some of that data.  Yeah, we really do break those things down," said Weir.

One number that baffles Weir is "163," where the Aggies were ranked by CBS to start the season.  The author of those rankings wrote, "With Marvin Menzies taking the UNLV job, I have to drop NMSU down a considerable amount." NMSU was even ranked behind fellow WAC contenders Grand Canyon and CSU Bakersfield in that poll.

"I think there's teams or coaches or fans or whoever who may have doubted us prior to the season.  So, we're all in this together just trying to prove a lot of people wrong and be the best team we can be," said Weir.

So far, NMSU has proved a lot of doubters wrong, even inching close to the top-25 in the Coaches Poll.

But there's another number that matters to Weir - 1970 - the last time the Aggies made the Final Four.

"And we're gonna have our eyes on 1970, and we're going to do it with a humble, passionate, aggressive, underdog mentality that you've never seen before," Weir said during his introduction in April. 

As great as that sounds, it's unlikely anyone else around the country sees the Aggies as underdogs anymore. 

 

 


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