UCLA Hires Coach Steve Alford Away from New Mexico
NCAA College Basketball
Los Angeles, CA
UCLA has hired coach Steve Alford to replace Ben Howland after making a run at VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens.
Alford, who coached New Mexico, said it's been difficult to tell his former team about his departure.
"I'm proud of my time and the opportunity given at New Mexico. I very much look forward to taking the helm at UCLA," he said.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Alford will receive a seven-year, $18.2 million contract. Alford will be paid $2.6 million a year plus a $200,000 signing bonus. A buyout would have to be paid to New Mexico.
Alford replaces Howland, who was fired at UCLA last week after the Bruins lost to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Howland coached the Bruins the past 10 years.
Guerrero made it clear that he wanted to have a coach who played an exciting style, would help fill the seats at Pauley Pavilion and represented the university and student-athletes well.
Alford endorsed his top assistant Craig Neal to replace him at New Mexico. His son, Bryce, who is a top 2013 recruit, would come with him to UCLA.
The 48-year old coach led the University of New Mexico Lobos (29-6) to the Mountain West Conference regular season and postseason tournament title but the No. 3 seed Lobos lost to Harvard in the round of 64 last week in Salt Lake City.
The Lobos experienced the most successful time during a six-year period under Alford with a 155-52 record and NCAA appearances in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Alford won or shared the Mountain West Conference title four times in his six seasons as head coach and was selected Mountain West coach of the year three times.
The 1987 Indiana graduate had head coaching stints were at Iowa (2000-07), Missouri State (1996-99) and Manchester College (1992-95) in his native Indiana.
Alford is a legend in the Hoosier state, where he starred at Indiana University from 1984-87 under coach Bob Knight. The Hoosiers won the national championship in his senior year. He also played on the gold medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team in Los Angeles as a college sophomore under Knight.
He was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1987 and played four years in the NBA before starting his head coaching career at tiny Manchester.
Alford had been given a 10-year extension by the Lobos just last week; he had signed a letter of agreement but not the official document.
"You're talking about the premier basketball program in the country," Alford said. "This is an opportunity that doesn't come around every day. We've been able to put in place a program, with a high academic grad rate, APR and championships.''
Alford has recruited Los Angeles well, including getting Kendall Williams away from UCLA when the Bruins didn't go through with a scholarship offer for him. Williams earned MWC player of the year honors.
Alford a surprise choice for UCLA
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