As the New Mexico State men’s basketball coach, Greg Heiar will win many rivalry basketball games.
There is no doubt about it.
He won his first in a dominant manner as the Aggies beat rival UTEP 95-70 at the Pan American Center on Wednesday.
New Mexico men’s basketball outperforms UTEP wire-to-wire
But right or wrong, the events of November 19 in Albuquerque will cast a shadow over his first season at Las Cruces, as information from the university and state police was hard to come by in the early stages of an ongoing investigation.
As the director of the most famous program on campus, Heiar this week claimed responsibility for the actions of 21-year-old Mike Peake, the Aggies player involved in a shootout that killed a UNM student and left Peake in the hospital afterwards Shot in the leg when police say he fired back, killing UNM student Brandon Travis, who police documents say conspired with three other UNM students to lure Peake onto campus around 3 a.m.
“I would say that in life, when you’re part of a family and someone in the family makes a mistake, sometimes everyone in the family is looked at for that mistake,” Heiar said Tuesday in his first public comments since the shooting. “There are many people who have done the right thing. We all suffer from a mistake that has been made. So life is.”
Heiar said Peake is still a member of the basketball team and stated that Peake needs her now more than ever.
“We keep Mike in our hearts and prayers and use this as a gathering tool to help our team grow,” Heiar said.
Beyond hearts and prayers, Peake is still actively connected with his teammates and speaks regularly to the group, including at halftime and after Wednesday’s game.
Aggie’s guard Xavier Pinson said Peake told the team: ‘Keep our foot on her neck. We have much more in us.”
Heiar said Peake also spoke to the team after the win.
“He just said he was hopping on one leg and how excited he was,” Heiar said. “He said I want to hug everyone in the room. I’m so proud of you guys and keep it up.”
Heiar said Peake was disciplined after his involvement in a fight at Aggie Memorial Stadium in October that police documents said proved the trigger for the shooting. The Heiar and NM state administration has not disclosed what the discipline entails, but Peake played in the first two games of the season and one exhibition game.
While discipline may lie with the head coach when it comes to whether or not playing time may be lost, at some point Heiar and/or the athletic department, perhaps even the dean of college, will have to deal with Peake’s standing as a student athlete.
NM State and police have confirmed that Peake took a gun on a team bus bound for Albuquerque, violated university policy and took a gun on the UNM campus, a New Mexico misdemeanor.
That’s something that won’t go away until either Peake returns to the basketball court next season or it’s eventually removed. There were two UNM students involved who have already been charged, and as these cases progress through the legal system, the connection between a shooting and NM State basketball will require us to report those details as well.
But even if Heiar had announced last week that Peake was no longer on the basketball team, his teammates are yet to play out any distractions last week’s events may have caused.
The shooting has also led to the cancellation of both rivalry games against New Mexico.
“We’re doing this for him,” said Aggie’s guard Anthony Roy. “We lost a large part of our team and it is important that everyone strengthens something. We’re playing at 15 (Peeke shirt number).”
Although NM State has not provided updates on Peake’s condition, he remains a member of the basketball program. Peake has been interacting with people through his social media accounts.
In a Facebook post, Peake addressed the shooting and some of the reactions to it, explaining: “Just looking through my social media gear and I can honestly say that some of you ‘Nmsu fans’ found a different outcome tonight wanted to. Regardless of the situation, I made a horrible decision that night by getting off ALL AGGIE GEAR at 3am, but do you think I would have gotten off if I knew I was being followed by 4 FRIENDS who knew each other very well, would be fooled and I came ALONE. Some of you “opinions” just sound like kindergarten but it’s all good fashion I’m coming back stronger mentally and physically and I’m on my business in every way #seeyallnextyear”
When asked if the shooting involving her teammate was a rallying point and not a distraction, Pinson said his approach begins with Peake’s message to his teammates.
“It really started with him, to be honest,” Pinson said. “I feel like a lot of people were shaken up and lost and he told us it is what it is. You gotta keep playing, you gotta keep doing what you’re doing, don’t be scared, don’t let the fans come at you, bad comments. We’ve all suffered a backlash from it. We just keep going. You can’t control everything. We only control what we can and just stay in the lab and play as hard as we can. “
Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.