UCLA finds ‘perfect fit’ with Alford

After
rumored flights to Indiana and even being turned down as far Virginia, UCLA
athletics director Dan Guerrero only had to go to New Mexico to get what he
deemed the “perfect fit” for his program.

New
Mexico head coach Steve Alford has been hired to the same position at UCLA, the
school announced.

“I
have been so fortunate and blessed in my life, and an opportunity to lead one
of the greatest programs in college basketball history is a once-in-a-lifetime”
said Alford in a statement. “It’s an honor to be the head coach at UCLA, yet,
it is also a responsibility to ensure that our former, current and future
players and fans are proud to be Bruins.”

Alford
will sign a reported seven-year deal worth $2.6 million annually.

Alford
spent the last six seasons at New Mexico where he guided the Lobos to three
NCAA tournaments. This past season, the Lobos went 29-6 and were Mountain West
regular season and conference tournament champions before being ousted by
Harvard in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Before the start of the
NCAA tournament, the school announced he signed a 10-year extension to remain
in Albuquerque. 

Earlier
in the search, the Bruins were spurned by two of the hottest young coaches in
the country, Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart.

Former
assistant and current Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar’s name was beginning
to pick up steam as a possible replacement for Howland. While Romar wasn’t a
popular choice among Bruins fans, he was with former UCLA players.

Instead,
it’s Alford who will be asked to lead the team back into national title
contention.

Although
Alford won a national championship playing for Bobby Knight in 1987, he won’t
be mistaken for a prototypical Knight disciple. His teams are a bit more free
flowing than his former coach.

Last
season, the Lobos averaged 67.3 points per game, which was good enough for 175th in the country. The
Bruins, under Howland’s uptempo transformation were 30th in the country in
scoring, 74.4 points per contest. 

He
can recruit Southern California, which is a facet that was missing in recent
years under Howland. Five players from the Southland were on New Mexico’s
roster last season. This includes reigning Mountain West Player of the Year,
Kendall Williams, a Los Osos grad, who was once a UCLA commit. His scholarship
was later pulled by Howland.