Alford going to UCLA

By Mike Hlas, Reporter


By Josh Christensen

Let me address the headline of this post, by asking another question. Why does New York usually vote for the Democratic candidate for president, while Texas usually votes for the Republican candidate?

People see things differently in other places.

Iowans may be asking what it is about former Hawkeyes Coach Steve Alford that makes him attractive enough to UCLA for it to hire him away from New Mexico. Alford is 5-7 in NCAA Division I tournament games, with two of those wins at Southwest Missouri State in the previous millenium. He has had two No. 3-seeds lose to No. 14-seeds in first-round NCAA games. Et cetera. He didn’t leave Iowa’s program better than he found it.

Alford hasn’t coached a Sweet 16 team in 14 years, and that was three jobs ago.

But here’s the view from UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, or so I’m guessing: New Mexico basketball was lagging when Alford was hired six years ago. He went 155-52, won four regular-season Mountain West Conference titles, and two MWC tournaments. His league record was 68-26, and it was a league that had built a good basketball reputation during his time there. UNM was a higher-seed in the NCAAs than anyone the Pacific-12 Conference put in the big tournament.

Alford has successfully recruited California. Five players on his last Lobos squad were from southern California, including his two top scorers, Kendall Williams and Tony Snell. That’s recruiting southern Californians to Albuquerque, not Westwood.

Said Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times Saturday on ESPNews: “He has a rock-star image, but he doesn’t have a rock-star resume.”

Iowa fans can snicker all they want, but Alford did do an excellent job building and sustaining a winner at New Mexico. His national reputation is considerably better than it is in a Midwestern state where he went 61-67 in the Big Ten and won one NCAA tourney game over eight seasons.

But the last things Lobo fans will remember about him is he lost to Harvard in the NCAAs, and he jumped to UCLA just 10 days after agreeing to a 10-year contract to continue coaching UNM.

That is major-college athletics.

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