User ID
Password
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
VegasInsider.com
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Home
NFL
NBA
NHL
MLB
NCAA FB
NCAA BK
Golf
Auto Racing
Horses
Boxing/MMA
More
Betting Tools

 
Alford's departure from UNM spurs emotions

New Sportsbook.com customers: Make your 1st bet, get your 2nd bet free, 100%, winnings paid in cash.
Join Now

Already have an account? Click here to view new Exclusive Rewards!

   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico basketball fans were blindsided Saturday by news that coach Steve Alford had been hired away by UCLA.

Advertisement
The Lobos had just wrapped up another winning season that was topped by their second straight Mountain West Conference title and their third NCAA tournament appearance in the past four seasons. And just days ago, Alford signed a new 10-year contract that could have been worth up to $2 million a year.

No one thought Alford was going anywhere.

Not even Alford.

Overnight, it all changed. Lobo Nation is now awash in disappointment.

New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs is among those feeling the effects of the loss. He said it was clear when he talked to Alford early Saturday that the coach had made up his mind. He said he understood and respected the decision.

``This is a very emotional time,'' Krebs said to a room packed with reporters and television cameras.

For some of the players it has yet to sink in. Lobos center Alex Kirk said they needed to come together and clear their heads.

``It's tough,'' Kirk said. ``It hit us all really hard. It hit coach hard and it's going to hit the whole state hard. I think it affects the whole conference.''

After scraping the bottom, New Mexico became a force in the Mountain West Conference under Alford's leadership. He was the only coach in school history to win at least 22 games in each season to finish with a record of 155-52. He also qualified the Lobos for the postseason in all six of his seasons.

The Lobos' success in recent years is what makes Alford's departure such a bitter pill to swallow, fans said.

``Everybody is upset because he did a wonderful job here,'' said Scott Creagan, former president of the Lobo Club and the New Mexico Alumni Lettermen. ``It's disappointing for the team, but the program is on the rise. Fans are back. Merchandise sales are up. Everything is going great.''

Still, it hurts, said Sam Bregman, a prominent Albuquerque attorney and a Lobos booster.

``It's not surprising that other schools would be looking at him after what he's done here, but I thought he had made a commitment to the Lobos for the long term,'' Bregman said. ``New Mexico stepped up and made a big-time commitment to him, and I thought he had made a big-time commitment to UNM.''

Following a disappointing loss to Harvard in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Alford said he was focused on getting his players back to work in the classroom. On Wednesday, he had no idea that he would be getting a call from UCLA, what he described as ``the pinnacle'' of college basketball.

Had it been any other school, Alford said his answer would have been an emphatic no.

If it's any consolation to New Mexico fans, Alford said the fact that UCLA even looked at him says something about what the Lobo program has become.

``What we've done here, people have noticed at the highest level,'' the coach said.

Leland Gould, director of governmental affairs for Western Refining/Giant Gas Stations, which is one of the largest sponsors of New Mexico athletics, said UCLA's interest in Alford only makes the Lobo program look that much better.

``This is a fantastic opportunity for Steve,'' Gould said. ``If he can do at UCLA what he did at New Mexico, he'll make history.''

---

Associated Press Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles and Glen Rosales in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
HEADLINES
News: LVH releases 2014-15 Futures
T-Tech F Tolbert transferring to SMU
Tarkanian released from hospital
Tulsa hires Haith as new hoops coach
Duke sophomore Hood enters NBA draft
Shot-blocker Obekpa to return to St. John's
Gonzaga signs son of Arvydas Sabonis
Mississippi adds TSU transfer Rhett
Hurricanes F James Kelly to transfer
MORE HEADLINES
 
Why Buy Picks From VegasInsider.com
NCAABK College Basketball Handicapper Sports Picks Records
VegasInsider.com Gold Membership
  
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!