ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The marriage between Fran Fraschilla and New Mexico basketball started with Fraschilla boasting he could lead the Lobos to a Final Four.

Three years and three trips to the NIT later, Fraschilla is gone and a program starving for national prominence is again searching for someone who can get it done.

"The marriage is over," longtime New Mexico fan and season ticket-holder Jaime Elias said after Fraschilla resigned Sunday. "When you think it's going to last a lifetime, and it doesn't work out . . . it's time to start over."

Fraschilla resigned amid mounting criticism from the fans and a season marked by player discord, defections and big losses.

Fraschilla, who formerly coached at St. John's and Manhattan, did not have a losing season in his three seasons in Albuquerque. But the 18-14, 21-13 and 16-14 records fell well short of what Lobos fans and the school expected when Fraschilla was hired in March 1999.

"Other people have progressed and we haven't," athletic director Rudy Davalos said. "He did not have a cupboard full of great players when he got here, but I think in three years you've had enough time. We didn't get there (NCAA tournament) and that's my bottom line."

Fraschilla agreed it was time for a change.

"The nature of Lobo basketball is high expectations," Fraschilla said. "It's time for the school to move on and for me to move on."

The 43-year-old Fraschilla came to New Mexico with a reputation of being a good recruiter with a high-energy coaching style. The year before New Mexico hired him, he led St. John's to the NCAA tournament, then was dismissed following a dispute with the school's administration.

The Brooklyn-born Fraschilla became an instant celebrity in a city and state where the coach of the Lobos often is more recognizable than the governor.

But the love affair didn't last long. Point guard John Robinson quit the team early in Fraschilla's first season. Over the three seasons, nine scholarship players left the program. Some like R.T. Guinn, Rafael Berumen and Marlon Parmer, accused Fraschilla of mistreating them.

Parmer, the first player recruited by Fraschilla, quit the team in January. He accused Fraschilla of verbal abuse and intimidation. Parmer's father said the coach was looking for someone to blame for the Lobos' lackluster play and internal problems.

Fraschilla inherited a New Mexico program that went to the NCAA tournament nine times under former coach Dave Bliss. In Bliss' last four seasons the Lobos won 102 games and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"I don't mind using the term Final Four around here," Fraschilla said when he was hired.

There were high expectations going into this season. The Lobos had most of their players back from last year's team that reached the finals of the Mountain West tournament.